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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obamacare driving doctors to refuse insurance.
on: November 20, 2013, 10:51:44 AM
Excellent article Doug!-- with several pithy, penetrating insights e.g.
"The government-run systems you so admire in other countries mostly came about long ago. They came about to expand access to medical care at a time when medical care couldn't do all that much for people. We live in a different age. America, let's face it, would be embarking on a single-payer system not to expand access—though that slogan would be used—but to deny and limit care in order to control runaway spending. Liberals, you think you want to go there but you don't."
Tea Party Patriots
Real Health Care Reform: Share Your Ideas
As we continue to watch the disastrous roll out of Obamacare, it would be easy for us to say that we have been warning about this for the last 4 years. It would be easy for us to say that we had a major impact in the fight for Congress to stop implementation of the law by not wasting any taxpayer money on what was clearly shaping up to be a train wreck - with fierce opposition from both political parties. We could say that we did all of this with the intent to protect the America from the disasters of Obamacare. And it would all be true.
However, right now is not the time for pointing fingers and "we told you so." Right now is time to go back to the drawing board and undo this mess before it continues to do harm to the American people. That's why we are laying out our guidelines for real health care reform.
The first step is full repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Then any new attempt at health care reform needs to include principles that promote health care freedom for all.
Real Health Care Reform would meet the following criteria:
• CONSTITUTIONAL: Real health care reform will be constitutional and protect all Americans' rights.
• COMPREHENSIBLE: Real health care reform will be comprehensible, clear, and simple for everyone to understand.
• DEBT-FREE: Real health care reform will not add to the national debt.
• RELATIONSHIPS: Real health care reform will enhance the doctor-patient relationship.
• FREE MARKET: Real health care reform will draw on the strengths of the free market by encouraging innovation and competition.
• PRIVACY: Real health care reform will minimize the role of the federal government in the health care sector.
• CHARITY: Real health care reform will incorporate opportunities for the private sector to provide charitable solutions.
• CHOICE: Real health care reform will increase consumer choice.
• TRANSPARENCY: Real health care reform will increase transparency.
Congress isn't leading the way on this, so it is time for the American people to step up and guide us to health care freedom. Join in on the conversation by letting us know what Real Health Care Reform looks like to you.
Click for more details on Real Health Care Reform.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Chechen leads group against western backed rebs in Syria
on: November 20, 2013, 10:32:35 AM
Meet the Syrian Rebel Commander Assad, Russia and the U.S. All Fear
Tarkhan Batirashvili, Ethnic Chechen, Leads Group Deeply at Odds with Western-Backed Rebels in Syria
By Alan Cullison
Nov. 19, 2013 11:34 p.m. ET
For months, Syrian government forces hunkered down at a remote air base north of Aleppo, deftly fending off rebel assaults—until one morning a war machine rumbled out of the countryside, announcing that the Chechens had arrived.
The vehicle was notable for its primal scariness: Rebels had welded dozens of oil-drilling pipes to the sides of the armored personnel carrier, and packed it with four tons of high explosives, according to videos released online by the rebels.
It was piloted by a suicide driver, who detonated the vehicle at the base, sending a ground-shaking black cloud into the sky in an attack that analysts said finally cleared the way for rebels to storm the airfield.
Chechens Get Involved in Syria
Some ethnic Chechens and Russian-speaking Islamists have for the first time joined a call to international jihad in large numbers, giving a new potency to rebels seeking to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Thomas Dworzak/Magnum Photos for The Wall Street Journal
The final capture of the airport in August immediately boosted the prestige of its unruly mastermind Tarkhan Batirashvili, according to analysts—an ethnic Chechen whose warring skills, learned in the U.S.-funded Georgian army, are now being put to use by a group deeply at odds with more mainstream Western-backed rebels.
The jihadi commander has recently emerged from obscurity to be the northern commander in Syria of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS), an al Qaeda-connected coalition whose thousands of Arab and foreign fighters have overrun key Syrian military bases, staged public executions and muscled aside American-backed moderate rebel groups trying to topple President Bashar al-Assad.
Conversations with Mr. Batirashvili's relatives and two of his former army commanders reveal a complex portrait of a modern jihadist from the former Soviet Union, motivated by misfortune as much as newly found religious zeal.
Born to a Christian father and Muslim mother, he served in an intelligence unit of the Georgian army before opportunities dried up at home and he left for holy war, friends and former colleagues said.
Efforts to reach Mr. Batirashvili were unsuccessful. And a website, fisyria.com, which boasts of his accomplishments, didn't respond to requests for comment.
The arrival of Mr. Batirashvili, known by his Arab nom de guerre Emir Umar al-Shishani, comes as other ethnic Chechens and Russian-speaking Islamists have for the first time responded in large numbers to the call of an international jihad in Syria.
Tarkhan Batirashvili, in 2008 as a soldier in Georgia and earlier this year as a rebel commander in Syria. Right: fisyria.com
Fighting in tightknit groups, the men have awed and repelled fellow jihadists with their military prowess and brutality, talking to one another in Russian or Chechen and to outsiders in the formal Arabic of the Quran, according to accounts of fellow rebels. Some have carved out fiefdoms inside Syria, enraging locals by collecting taxes and imposing Islamic Shariah law.
Even by the gruesome standards of the war in Syria, their rise has become notable for its unusual violence. One rebel from Russia's Dagestan, for instance, was chased out of the country after he appeared in an online video where he beheaded three locals for supporting the Syrian government, according to analysts with ties to the rebel groups. And just last week, Mr. Batirashvili's group apologized for mistakenly beheading a wounded soldier who actually turned out to be an allied rebel commander.
The prominence of the rebels on the battlefield has turned the conflict into a geopolitical struggle between the U.S. and Russia, which has long accused the West of ignoring the danger of Islamists in the troubled Chechen region, where an insurgency has been active for decades.
While people close to Mr. Batirashvili say he views the war as a chance to strike a blow against one of the Kremlin's allies, he has also talked of his hatred of America. In a recent interview with a jihadi website, he described Americans as "the enemies of Allah and the enemies of Islam."
Until recently, Mr. Batirashvili had few outward religious convictions, former colleagues said. But like many Chechens he wanted to fight the Kremlin wherever he had the chance. "He had that kind of hatred for them," said Malkhaz Topuria, a former commander who has watched his onetime subordinate's stardom grow in videos posted on the Internet. "It was in his genes."
Moscow has mostly crushed its Islamist rebellion in the North Caucasus region, but a top Kremlin official warned last month of the new "terrorist international" in Syria, which could eventually return its focus on the mother country.
U.S. intelligence estimates that as many as 17,000 foreigners are fighting on the side of rebels in Syria. About half fight for the ISIS; of those, officials in Russia say, at least a thousand are from the country's North Caucasus and from Europe, where many Chechens have sought asylum since the collapse of the Soviet Union and hostilities in Chechnya in the 1990s.
While the Russian-speaking Islamists represent a fraction of the total rebels, many have risen to positions of power because of their history of fighting a standing army in Russia, according to analysts.
Kremlin officials say that these fighters are picking up more military experience, as well as contacts to Arab financiers who bankrolled uprisings elsewhere in the Middle East and Africa.
"One day, it's highly likely many of these fighters will return to their home republics in the Caucasus, which will clearly generate a heightened security threat to that region," said Charles Lister, analyst at IHS Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Centre.
The Chechen region has come under scrutiny lately in the U.S. in the wake of this year's Boston Marathon bombing. The alleged bomber on trial, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, has roots in Chechnya and posted videos online recruiting fighters to Syria.
Mr. Batirashvili's ability to work with foreign jihadis appears to have been vital to his rise within the ISIS, which has become the main umbrella group for foreign fighters in Syria, including Saudis, Kuwaitis, Egyptians and even Chinese, according to analysts.
The ISIS, originally founded as an umbrella organization for Iraqi jihadists, views the war in Syria as a means not only to overthrow the Assad regime but a historic battleground for a larger holy war and the establishment of a larger Islamic state, Mr. Batirashvili said in an interview recently with a jihadist website.
Some of the men respond to appeals on YouTube under a generic call to fight for an Islamic state under Shariah law, according to analysts. Most fly into Turkey and then slip over the porous border into Syria, according to interviews with fellow Islamists.
Mr. Batirashvili hailed from outside Russia's borders, but hostility to Kremlin rule pulsed around him. His parents were ethnic Chechens from Georgia's Pankisi Gorge, a rugged valley that borders Chechnya that has been a traditional safe haven for fighters opposing Russia.
Mr. Batirashvili got his first exposure to the rebel spirit as a shepherd boy, living in a brick hut with no plumbing in the village of Birkiani, his father Temuri said. There, Mr. Batirashvili helped Chechen rebels cross secretly into Russia and sometimes he joined the fighters on missions against Russian-backed troops, his father said.
After high school, he joined the Georgian army and distinguished himself as master of various weaponry and maps, said Mr. Topuria, his former commander, who recruited him into a special reconnaissance group.
Russia has long accused the U.S. of irresponsibly funding the Georgian army, which it says in turn supports Islamists—a charge the Georgians and the U.S. deny.
Mr. Batirashvili was easygoing and popular with fellow soldiers and steered clear of discussing religion, though he did acknowledge his Muslim family, Mr. Topuria said.
Mr. Batirashvili rose fast in the army, being promoted to sergeant in a new intelligence unit, where his monthly salary of about $700 was more than he had ever made in his life, his father and former commanders said.
A representative for the Georgian army confirmed only the basic facts of his service in the army, declining to comment on any other activities.
When Georgian forces were ordered to attack the Russian-backed breakaway province of South Ossetia in 2008, Mr. Batirashvili was near the front line, spying on Russian tank columns and relaying their coordinates to Georgian artillery units, a former commander said. The war lasted five days.
Two years later Mr. Batirashvili's life began to unravel. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 2010 and confined to a military hospital for several months. When he emerged, he was deemed unfit for the military and discharged, the ministry said.
Returning home, Mr. Batirashvili was "very disillusioned," his father said. The local police force wouldn't hire him, and his mother died after having fought cancer for years.
"He was very nervous, and worried about money," a former Georgian army commander said. He said Mr. Batirashvili also appeared to be helping Islamist rebels inside Russia, and asked the former commander for help finding some military-grade maps of Chechnya.
In September 2010, Mr. Batirashvili was arrested for illegally harboring weapons, the defense ministry said, and sentenced to three years in prison.
The ministry refused to provide further details about the case.
Mr. Batirashvili's cousin Jabrail said he was released from jail after about 16 months in early 2012 and immediately left the country. "He had plenty of time to sit and think in jail about how he had been treated," his cousin said. "He served in the army in the most dangerous places, and then when he got sick they took his job and then they put him in prison."
In a recent interview with the jihadi website, Mr. Batirashvili said that prison transformed him. "I promised God that if I come out of prison alive, I'll go fight jihad for the sake of God," he said.
Though Mr. Batirashvili announced that he was headed for Istanbul, his father said it was clear he was planning to offer his services to Islamists. Members of the Chechen diaspora in the Turkish capital were ready to recruit him to lead fighters inside Syria, and an older brother had gone there months before, his father said.
"We argued about [his decision] bitterly," he said. "But he was a man with no job, no prospects. So he took the wrong path."
His former army commanders also lost contact with him, and only received word of his whereabouts this spring when Georgia's army intelligence service contacted them.
The army, they said, wanted help identifying a jihadi leader who had appeared lately in videos from Syria. The man spoke Russian with a Georgian accent, they said.
When he opened the first video, "I recognized him immediately," one of his commanders said. Mr. Batirashvili had traded in his Georgian army fatigues for a traditional South Asian shalwar kameez shirt and had grown a red beard that reached down to his chest.
But his speech, barely above a mumble, and his habit of staring at the ground as he talked were the same, he said.
In videos, Mr. Batirashvili was first identified as commander of a group calling itself Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, or "Army of Emigrants and Helpers." He called for donations, claiming jihadists finally had a chance to establish an Islamic state in the Middle East.
This summer, videos identified him as a newly named commander of the ISIS. His speeches, delivered in Russian, are distributed over a website, www.fisyria.com
, which brags of his group's victories and frequently appeals for donations.
In a recent report, International Crisis Group said that Mr. Batirashvili's army has imposed extremist rule of law in areas he controls, shooting into peaceful demonstrations and detaining activists for offenses that include nonviolent dissent and smoking cigarettes during Ramadan.
Mr. Batirashvili's father said he hasn't heard from his son for almost two years and gets news of him mostly through his older brother, who has been fighting with him in Syria. He said he doubts his son's beard was grown out of any religious conviction.
"He just switched armies, and now he's wearing a different hat," he said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Thomas Jefferson
on: November 19, 2013, 05:16:06 PM
Thomas Jefferson was a very remarkable man who started learning very early in life and never stopped.
At 5, began studying under his cousin's tutor.
At 9, studied Latin, Greek and French.
At 14, studied classical literature and additional languages.
At 16, entered the College of William and Mary. Also could write in Greek with one hand while writing the same in Latin with the other.
At 19, studied Law for 5 years starting under George Wythe.
At 23, started his own law practice.
At 25, was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses.
At 31, wrote the widely circulated "Summary View of the Rights of British America ? And retired from his law practice.
At 32, was a Delegate to the Second Continental Congress.
At 33, wrote the Declaration of Independence .
At 33, took three years to revise Virginia 's legal code and wrote a Public Education bill and a statute for Religious Freedom.
At 36, was elected the second Governor of Virginia succeeding Patrick Henry.
At 40, served in Congress for two years.
At 41, was the American minister to France and negotiated commercial treaties with European nations along with Ben Franklin and John Adams.
At 46, served as the first Secretary of State under George Washington.
At 53, served as Vice President and was elected president of the American Philosophical Society.
At 55, drafted the Kentucky Resolutions.
At 57, was elected the third president of the United States .
At 60, obtained the Louisiana Purchase doubling the nation's size.
At 61, was elected to a second term as President.
At 65, retired to Monticello .
At 80, helped President Monroe shape the Monroe Doctrine.
At 81, almost single-handedly created the University of Virginia and served as its first president.
At 83, died on the 50th anniversary of the Signing of the Declaration of Independence along with John Adams.
Thomas Jefferson knew because he himself studied the previous failed attempts at government. He understood actual history, the nature of God, his laws and the nature of man. That happens to be way more than what most understand today. Jefferson really knew his stuff. A voice from the past to lead us in the future:
John F. Kennedy held a dinner in the white House for a group of the brightest minds in the nation at that time. He made this statement: "This is perhaps the assembly of the most intelligence ever to gather at one time in the White House with the exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."
"When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as Europe ."
-- Thomas Jefferson
"The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not."
-- Thomas Jefferson
"It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world."
-- Thomas Jefferson
"I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them."
-- Thomas Jefferson
"My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government."
-- Thomas Jefferson
"No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms."
-- Thomas Jefferson
"The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government."
-- Thomas Jefferson
"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."
-- Thomas Jefferson
"To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical."
-- Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson said in 1802:
"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies.
If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property - until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Banking, Monetary Policy, Dollar & other currencies, Gold/Silver
on: November 19, 2013, 11:42:10 AM
Scott Grannis comments:
"This sounds like a gutsy/crazy move. Selling yuan bonds is equivalent to shorting the yuan, which has been appreciating almost continuously against every currency on the planet, though much less against the CAD than against the US dollar. However, the CAD is close to an all-time high against the US dollar, and seems very unlikely to appreciate further. CAD could decline against US as US declines against CNY. Not an obvious strategy to pursue in my book. Better to buy those bonds than sell them"
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Census Bureau faked election jobs report
on: November 19, 2013, 11:21:49 AM
In the home stretch of the 2012 presidential campaign, from August to September, the unemployment rate fell sharply — raising eyebrows from Wall Street to Washington.
The decline — from 8.1 percent in August to 7.8 percent in September — might not have been all it seemed. The numbers, according to a reliable source, were manipulated.
And the Census Bureau, which does the unemployment survey, knew it.
Just two years before the presidential election, the Census Bureau had caught an employee fabricating data that went into the unemployment report, which is one of the most closely watched measures of the economy.
And a knowledgeable source says the deception went beyond that one employee — that it escalated at the time President Obama was seeking reelection in 2012 and continues today.
“He’s not the only one,” said the source, who asked to remain anonymous for now but is willing to talk with the Labor Department and Congress if asked.
The Census employee caught faking the results is Julius Buckmon, according to confidential Census documents obtained by The Post. Buckmon told me in an interview this past weekend that he was told to make up information by higher-ups at Census.
Ironically, it was Labor’s demanding standards that left the door open to manipulation.
Labor requires Census to achieve a 90 percent success rate on its interviews — meaning it needed to reach 9 out of 10 households targeted and report back on their jobs status.
Census currently has six regions from which surveys are conducted. The New York and Philadelphia regions, I’m told, had been coming up short of the 90 percent.
Philadelphia filled the gap with fake interviews.
“It was a phone conversation — I forget the exact words — but it was, ‘Go ahead and fabricate it’ to make it what it was,” Buckmon told me.
Census, under contract from the Labor Department, conducts the household survey used to tabulate the unemployment rate.
Interviews with some 60,000 household go into each month’s jobless number, which currently stands at 7.3 percent. Since this is considered a scientific poll, each one of the households interviewed represents 5,000 homes in the US.
Buckmon, it turns out, was a very ambitious employee. He conducted three times as many household interviews as his peers, my source said.
By making up survey results — and, essentially, creating people out of thin air and giving them jobs — Buckmon’s actions could have lowered the jobless rate.
Buckmon said he filled out surveys for people he couldn’t reach by phone or who didn’t answer their doors.
But, Buckmon says, he was never told how to answer the questions about whether these nonexistent people were employed or not, looking for work, or have given up.
But people who know how the survey works say that simply by creating people and filling out surveys in their name would boost the number of folks reported as employed.
Census never publicly disclosed the falsification. Nor did it inform Labor that its data was tainted.
“Yes, absolutely they should have told us,” said a Labor spokesman. “It would be normal procedure to notify us if there is a problem with data collection.”
Census appears to have looked into only a handful of instances of falsification by Buckmon, although more than a dozen instances were reported, according to internal documents.
In one document from the probe, Program Coordinator Joal Crosby was ask in 2010, “Why was the suspected … possible data falsification on all (underscored) other survey work for which data falsification was suspected not investigated by the region?”
On one document seen by The Post, Crosby hand-wrote the answer: “Unable to determine why an investigation was not done for CPS,” or the Current Population Survey — the official name for the unemployment report.
With regard to the Consumer Expenditure survey, only four instances of falsification were looked into, while 14 were reported.
I’ve been suspicious of the Census Bureau for a long time.
During the 2010 Census report — an enormous and costly survey of the entire country that goes on for a full year — I suspected (and wrote in a number of columns) that Census was inexplicably hiring and firing temporary workers.
I suspected that this turnover of employees was being done purposely to boost the number of new jobs being report each month. (The Labor Department does not use the Census Bureau for its other monthly survey of new jobs — commonly referred to as the Establishment Survey.)
Last week I offered to give all the information I have, including names, dates and charges to Labor’s inspector general.
I’m waiting to hear back from Labor.
I hope the next stop will be Congress, since manipulation of data like this not only gives voters the wrong impression of the economy but also leads lawmakers, the Federal Reserve and companies to make uninformed decisions.
To cite just one instance, the Fed is targeting the curtailment of its so-called quantitative easing money-printing/bond-buying fiasco to the unemployment rate for which Census provided the false information.
So falsifying this would, in essence, have dire consequences for the country.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison, Federalist 62, 1788
on: November 19, 2013, 11:00:49 AM
"No government, any more than an individual, will long be respected without being truly respectable; nor be truly respectable, without possessing a certain portion of order and stability." --James Madison, Federalist No. 62, 1788
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Prager: The Midas Touch and the Leftist Touch
on: November 19, 2013, 10:50:22 AM
The Midas Touch and the Leftist Touch
Tuesday, Nov 19, 2013
The Midas touch is named for the mythological Greek King Midas who is said to have been able to turn everything he touched into gold.
The left has the opposite ability: to turn virtually everything it touches into rubble. Sometimes it happens quickly; sometimes it takes generations. But it is inevitable.
Almost the only time this is not true is when the left takes a position that is shared by non-leftists. But whatever the left transforms in its direction is damaged, and often destroyed.
Name the institution or the value transformed by the left and that institution or value is ruined.
Here is a partial list:
Since the left came to dominate universities, schools of education and, increasingly, high schools, each has becomes inferior to what it was prior to left-wing influence.
Universities have become to the left what seminaries are to religions — a place to indoctrinate students. Truth is derided as a false construct and is no longer the goal of most university professors (outside of math and the natural sciences). Schools of education teach left-wing doctrines and brand-new notions of teaching that are almost always inferior to what existed earlier.
–Art and Music
The left-wing influence on art and music has been almost entirely destructive. Notions of greatness in art have been deconstructed, if not ridiculed. There is no pursuit of excellence or of spiritual or moral elevation, and no aim to inspire. Indeed, the opposite is more often the rule. The ugly, the deliberately offensive, the moronic and the scatological are celebrated: The 24-foot sculpture of a dog lifting its leg and peeing in front of the Orange County Museum of Art; Piss Christ, the crucifix in the artist’s urine shown at galleries around America; and exhibits composed of menstrual blood are but a few examples.
While all rational people want to protect the environment, environmentalism has become a destructive leftist religion. Millions of Africans have died of malaria because of the environmentalist-induced bans on DDT. Environmentalist opposition to modifying rice to include Vitamin A led to the deaths of about 8 million Third World children. In 2012 alone, wind turbines have created killing fields for birds and bats. The American prairies are being destroyed by the environmentalists’ push for ethanol.
The cultural left has created and celebrated an unbelievable coarsening of the culture, especially injurious to the young. Examples of Hollywood’s degradation of culture in film and on television are too numerous to mention. We will suffice with mentioning only MTV, one of the most damaging cultural forces in the lives of American young people; and the sex-drenched universities from an f-saw exhibition to the ubiquitous “sex week.”
For decades, the left has sought to weaken the American military, the most potent force for peace and liberty on planet earth — by, among other things, obtaining huge cuts in military spending (not only through sequestration) and social engineering experiments such as placing women in combat units.
Thanks to the left’s total dominance of California political life, the left, in the words of the most respected observer of California life, Chapman University’s Joel Kotkin, “has turned the California Dream into a nightmare.”
Left-wing policies have done incalculable damage to black America. Left-wing mayors of nearly every major American city have supervised the economic ruin of many of those cities. Decades of rhetoric reinforcing black victimhood have served only to stymie black progress and increase anger. And left-wing welfare policies have been the primary contributor to the 70 percent rate for children born out-of-wedlock and the concomitant decline of black fatherhood.
The left-engineered welfare state with its monumental national debts is crushing the economies of virtually every European country that has adopted them, and it will do the same to the American economy. Even the proudest achievements of the left — Medicare and Medicaid — will soon be unsustainable, as will Social security if the retirement age is not raised by at least a few years.
–Men and Women
Thanks to left-wing attitudes inculcated in women from high school on, more and more women consider marriage and family second in importance to career success. This will lead, as it already has, to unhappiness among vast numbers of women who eventually realize that career isn’t nearly as meaningful to them as it is to most men. Meanwhile, the anti-boy policies in elementary schools and high schools — books assigned that appeal far more to girls, the end of games at recess that boys enjoy and need — have directly led to boys falling more and more behind girls in academic and professional achievement.
Meanwhile, left-wing denigration of marriage (except same-sex marriage) has led to the lowest rates of marriage in Western history, and the left-wing-induced secularization of society has massively contributed to historically low birth rates in America and Europe.
–God and Religion
For over half a century, the left has made war on Judeo-Christian religions in the popular culture and through legislation, beginning with the Supreme Court’s 1962 decision banning this voluntary and non-denominational prayer in New York State schools: “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our country.” The consequences of this enforced secularization of American life in terms of human happiness and ethical behavior are — and will increasingly be — disastrous.
It turns out that there is little difference between the Midas touch and the leftist touch. Both end up destroying everything.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR
on: November 19, 2013, 09:50:37 AM
Two blasts hit near the Iranian Embassy in Beirut
Two explosions hit near the Iran Embassy in Beirut killing at least 23 and wounding 146 others on Tuesday. The blasts struck about 50 to 100 yards outside the embassy in the predominantly Shiite Bir Hassan neighborhood of the Lebanese capital. One explosion appeared to have been caused by a suicide bomber, while the other seemed to be a car bomb from a vehicle parked two buildings away from the complex. However, some report that one of the explosions could have come from rocket fire. According to the Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon, Ghazanfar Roknabadi, Iran's cultural attaché, Sheikh Ibrahim Ansari, was killed in the explosion. The Abdullah Azzam Brigades, a Lebanese militant group with ties to al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack. Lebanon has seen sporadic violence since the start of the Syrian civil war, and southern Beirut was hit with a series of rocket attacks and car bombings this summer. The country has also experienced an influx of over 816,000 refugees, with a new wave of Syrians fleeing a recent government offensive.
Syrian state media has claimed that government forces have seized the strategic town of Qara near the Lebanese border. The statement has come days after the Syrian army launched an offensive in the mountainous Qalamoun region. Qara is located on a vital supply line between Lebanon and rebel fighters around Damascus and additionally ties government territory along the Mediterranean coast with the capital. If government troops succeed in overtaking the area, the regime would consolidate gains made with the support of Hezbollah fighters in May in Qusair. According to the United Nations, fighting in the area has driven over 12,000 new refugees into the Lebanese town of Arsal in the last four days, the greatest influx into the town at any period over the past two and half years of fighting.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / From an arm of the Israel govt.
on: November 18, 2013, 08:37:42 PM
Click here to watch: Hamas Prepares for War
During an Al-Qassam Brigade military parade Hamas officials called on Fatah to prepare for war with Israel, and threatened to declare war if Jews are allowed to pray at the Temple Mount. At the parade by Hamas' "military wing", which marks a year since the IDF Pillar of Defense counter-terror operation in Gaza, Raeed Sa'ad, a high-ranking commander of Al-Qassam, called on Fatah and its military branch in Judea and Samaria to prepare for the next clash with Israel. Sa'ad added that "jihad and struggle" were the only way to confront Israel, saying "don't be mistaken by the peace talks that won't bring anything but additional concessions." The call comes right after Palestinian Authority (PA) negotiators quit recent peace talks. Hamas called on the PA to end the talks altogether just Thursday. Hamas spokesperson Mahmoud Al-Zahar spoke at the same event, opining that the balance of forces is swinging in favor of the Palestinians, and saying that in the next conflict "we will invade them and they won't invade us." Additionally Sa'ad threatened Israel, warning that Al-Qassam Brigades will declare war if plans to allow Jews to pray at the holiest site in Judaism in a rotating time table between Jews and Muslims is carried out.
Mushir al-Masri, a top Hamas terrorist and member of the PA parliament, declared that a 'calm' or cease-fire period with Israel was the best time to prepare new tactics against Israel's alleged "aggression" - both above and below ground. Speaking on behalf of Hamas at the College for Science and Technology in Khan Yunis on Monday, al-Masri emphasized that the next conflict with Israel would be underground, and that "we will enter your homes, your schools, your positions and your strongholds."
Meanwhile Yehudah Glick, Chairman of the Temple Mount Heritage Fund, ended a 12 day hunger strike Thursday after Jerusalem District Police Chief Yossi Pariente gave him permission to return to the Temple Mount. Glick began the hunger strike after police barred him from the Temple Mount with no reason cited.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Conscription will change the military
on: November 18, 2013, 09:52:07 AM
A large, conscripted military may no longer be the most appropriate way for Turkey to protect its interests and defend against external threats. Ankara appears to have acknowledged as much Oct. 21, when it voted to reduce the length of time conscripted soldiers are required to serve. The measure, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2014, will effectively shrink the military by 70,000 members. This is no small diminution, considering that Turkey, with its 750,000 soldiers, has the second-largest military among NATO members. Political and economic considerations may have informed Ankara's decision, but ultimately the move was made to reflect the changing geopolitical conditions under which Turkey now finds itself.
Historically, Turkey's location and geography has necessitated a robust military. Located at the crossroads between Asia and Europe, the country was critical terrain during the Cold War. In 1952, Turkey became a member of NATO, serving as the southwestern bulwark against the Warsaw Pact. It mustered a large standing military by establishing compulsory service for all Turkish men. Though the Cold War ended two decades ago, Turkey has maintained this practice.
Turkish Armed Forces
Conscription is mandated by the Turkish Constitution, but the legislature determines how it will be enacted. Currently, a healthy Turkish man with no college education serves for 15 months. Prior to 2003, the minimum requirement was 18 months. The upcoming change will reduce this term to 12 months. Of course, there are some exceptions to the mandate. Men with college education have a shorter commitment of six to 12 months, and men over the age of 30 can buy their way out of service for a fee.
Exemptions notwithstanding, conscripts constitute the majority of Turkish service members, comprising some 500,000 soldiers. With such a short service time, many conscripts fail to gain experience after their basic training. As a result, the Turkish military has a small professional core that is augmented by lightly trained forces.
Old Structures, New Threats
This structure made sense during the Cold War, when Turkey was facing similarly structured Soviet and Soviet-backed militaries. Mobilizing an entire population of even lightly trained service members, should the need arise, certainly has its advantages. But times have changed, as have Turkey's primary strategic threats. Whereas once the country was confronted with the prospect of a Soviet ground invasion, it now contends with domestic terrorism, Kurdish insurgents and, more recently, border issues with neighboring Syria, still in the throes of civil war. Smaller, more agile professional forces, along with Turkey's paramilitary forces, are better suited to address these security concerns.
However, force structures are not determined by threats alone. For decades, the Turkish military acted as the guardian of the Kemalist principles upon which the country was founded. Maintaining a large standing army helped the military extend its influence into the political affairs of the state. But the rise and political consolidation of the ruling Justice and Development Party over the past decade has severely undermined the Turkish military's political influence. The mere sight of once-invulnerable Turkish generals in jail confirms that Turkey's civilian political leadership has supplanted the military establishment.
Clearly, there is a political element to the conscription reform, as evidenced by the Justice and Development Party's political consolidation and its imperative to curb the military's influence. Equally important, a presidential election will take place in 2014 and general elections in 2015. A circumscribed military service requirement will likely buy the ruling party considerable political capital among voters, many of whom would rather study, work and earn a living than perform an increasingly archaic social service.
Aside from political considerations, military modernization and increasingly capable military technology demand that force structures maintain highly trained, professional personnel. New technologies and the requisite personnel operating them require more time and more money. The current conscription model does not address these requirements sufficiently. Therefore, the military is being reconfigured as a smaller, better-trained and more expensive per capita professional force supported by higher-end technological platforms.
This transformation likely will continue for the foreseeable future. Conscription will be modified to the point that it faces elimination, which would probably require a constitutional amendment. Other countries that have undergone similar reconfigurations, including former Warsaw Pact members that later joined NATO, have learned that this process can take decades to complete and that a smaller military is not necessarily a cheaper military.
Read more: Turkey: How Conscription Reform Will Change the Military | Stratfor
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: JFK was a conservative
on: November 18, 2013, 07:32:30 AM
Exposing the Myth of JFK's Politics
Liberals decried him as president, then rewrote the record after Dallas.
By L. Gordon Crovitz
Nov. 17, 2013 5:57 p.m. ET
Fifty years after John F. Kennedy's assassination, a surprising fact has been rediscovered: In his time, he was not considered a liberal.
"Understanding Kennedy as a political conservative may make liberals uncomfortable, by crowning conservatism with the halo of Camelot," Ira Stoll writes in his new book, " JFK, Conservative." Yet "it could make conservatives uncomfortable, too—many of them have long viscerally despised the entire Kennedy family, especially John F. Kennedy's younger brother Ted."
Mr. Stoll makes a strong case that in 1960 "the anti-Communist, anti-big government candidate was John F. Kennedy. The one touting government programs and higher salaries for public employees was Richard Nixon, " he writes.
JFK's false image as a government-loving peacenik was created "partly because of the work of liberal historians, partly as a result of shifts in American partisanship," Mr. Stoll writes. (Disclosure: I'm on the board of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which published "JFK, Conservative.") The best-selling biographies of the president after his death were by two of his more left-wing advisers, Ted Sorensen and Arthur Schlesinger Jr.
It's often forgotten how troubled left-liberals were by JFK. New York Times NYT +1.87% columnist Tom Wicker disdained as "bellicose" his Inaugural Address pledge to "pay any price, bear any burden" to defend freedom. Former Democratic aide Chris Matthews understood "Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country" as "a hard Republican-sounding slap at the welfare state."
After making tariff reduction his top legislative goal for 1962, Kennedy announced that "the most urgent task confronting the Congress in 1963" was cutting marginal income-tax rates—not an antipoverty program or a civil rights law. "The soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the rates now," he said. Liberal adviser John Kenneth Galbraith reported that Kennedy told him to "shut up about my opposition to tax cuts."
Kennedy's tax cuts were even to the right of the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, which worried that "the economic impact of lower taxes is a guess at best." But he was right. The tax cuts, enacted after his death, created years of strong economic growth. The editorial page later championed supply-side economics, and Ronald Reagan cited JFK's precedent in embracing the idea.
In 1981, Sorensen admitted that "most of us and the press and historians have, for one reason or another, treated Kennedy as being much more liberal than he so regarded himself at the time." This admission was made only in private, at a meeting of administration veterans at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. Likewise, Kennedy's Treasury secretary, Douglas Dillon, called JFK "fiscally conservative," but only in a speech to the Century Association, a private club in New York City, in 1993.
"It was too late," Mr. Stoll said in an interview. "The myth had already been created." Asked whether the increased transparency of our digital era would make it hard to repeat the spin job that portrayed Kennedy as a liberal, Mr. Stoll said: "The Internet does make fact-checking easier and deception harder."
Mr. Stoll discovered via the Internet that Sorensen's and Schlesinger's biographies reversed the chronology of two key foreign-policy speeches to make it look as if the president drifted more dovish. But JFK's later speech, at the Berlin Wall, was hard-line. He referred to communism as an "evil system" and gloated that free countries "have never had to put up a wall to keep our people in." Reagan used "evil empire" and began his "Tear Down This Wall" speech by saying, "Twenty-four years ago, President John F. Kennedy visited Berlin."
The Internet led Mr. Stoll to a startling quote about Harold Christoffel, a United Auto Workers official who was sentenced to prison for lying to Congress about communist influence on a strike at an Allis-Chalmers plant in Wisconsin that made turbines for Navy destroyers. "The 1941 Allis-Chalmers strike was a commie strike," said Massachusetts Rep. John F. Kennedy. The source was a 1947 issue of the Dispatcher, the newspaper of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. Mr. Stoll said it wasn't in the catalog of the Wisconsin Historical Society, but "a Google GOOG -0.16% search did turn up the LinkedIn profile of the intern who listed on her profile the experience of having processed and cataloged the papers for the Society." That led Mr. Stoll to the old news story.
Getting history right is important: The political tradition of economic growth, limited government and peace through strength worked for JFK and Reagan, two of the most popular postwar presidents.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Problems of Women in Combat
on: November 18, 2013, 07:16:06 AM
The Problems of Women in Combat – From a Female Combat Vet
Jan 26th, 2013 @ 04:19 pm › Jude Eden
For public releaseCol. Robert M Olivier USMCIMEFDM G-3 Information Operations
It’s not all about qualification. I’m speaking as a female Marine Iraq war vet who did serve in the combat zone doing entry checkpoint duty in Fallujah, and we worked with the grunts daily for that time. All the branches still have different standards for females and males. Why? Because most women wouldn’t even qualify to be in the military if they didn’t have separate standards. Men and women are different, but those pushing women into combat don’t want to admit that truth. They huff and puff about how women can do whatever men can do, but it just ain’t so. We’re built differently, and it doesn’t matter that one particular woman could best one particular man. The best woman is still no match for the best man, and most of the men she’d be fireman-carrying off the battlefield will be at least 100 lbs heavier than her with their gear on.
Women are often great shooters but can’t run in 50-80 lbs of gear as long, hard, or fast as men. Military training is hard enough on men’s bodies; it’s harder on women’s. And until women stop menstruating, there will always be an uphill battle for staying level and strong at all times. No one wants to talk about the fact that in the days before a woman’s cycle, she loses half her strength, to say nothing of the emotional ups and downs that affect judgment. And how would you like fighting through PMS symptoms while clearing a town or going through a firefight? Then there are the logistics of making all the accommodations for women in the field, from stopping the convoy to pee or because her cycle started to stripping down to get hosed off after having to go into combat with full MOP gear when there’s a biological threat.
This is to say nothing of unit cohesion, which is imperative and paramount, especially in the combat fields. When preparing for battle, the last thing on your mind should be sex; but you put men and women in close quarters together, and human nature is what it is (this is also why the repeal of DADT is so damaging). It doesn’t matter what the rules are. The Navy proved that when they started allowing women on ship. What happened? They were having sex and getting pregnant, ruining unit cohesion (not to mention derailing the operations because they’d have to change course to get them off ship.)
When I deployed, we’d hardly been in the country a few weeks before one of our females had to be sent home because she’d gotten pregnant (nice waste of training, not to mention taxpayer money that paid for it). That’s your military readiness? Our enemies are laughing – “Thanks for giving us another vulnerability, USA!”
Then there are relationships. Whether it’s a consensual relationship, unwanted advances, or sexual assault, they all destroy unit cohesion. No one is talking about the physical and emotional stuff that goes along with men and women together. A good relationship can foment jealousy and the perception of favoritism. A relationship goes sour, and suddenly one loses faith in the very person who may need to drag one off the field of battle. A sexual assault happens, and a woman not only loses faith in her fellows, but may fear them. A vindictive man paints a woman as easy, and she loses the respect of her peers. A vindictive woman wants to destroy a man’s career with a false accusation (yes, folks, this happens too); and it’s poison to the unit. All this happens before the fighting even begins.
Yet another little-discussed issue is that some female military members are leaving their kids behind to advance their careers by deploying. I know of one divorced Marine who left her two sons, one of them autistic, with their grandparents while she deployed. She was wounded on base (not on the front lines) and is a purple heart recipient. What if she’d been killed, leaving behind her special needs child? Glory was more important than motherhood. Another case in my own unit was a married female who became angry when they wouldn’t let both her and her husband deploy at the same time. Career advancement was the greater concern.
I understand the will to fight. I joined the Marines in the hopes of deploying because I believe that fighting jihadists is right. And I care about the women and children in Islamic countries where they are denied their rights, subjugated, mutilated, and murdered with impunity; and where children are molested and raped with impunity (not to mention defending our own freedom against these hate-filled terrorists who want to destroy freedom-loving countries like America.) Joining the Marines was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life, and I’m glad I got to deploy. It not only allowed me to witness the war, but to witness the problems with women in combat.
Women have many wonderful strengths, and there is certainly a lot of work for women to do in the military. But all the problems that come with men and women working together are compounded in the war zone, destroying the cohesion necessary to fight bloody, hellish war. We are at war; and if we want to win, we have to separate the wheat from the chaff. And the top priority should be military readiness and WINNING wars, not political correctness and artificially imposed “equality” on the military.
Read more at http://www.westernjournalism.com/the-problems-of-women-in-combat-from-a-female-combat-vet/#6RXGO4rAS7XMKvML.99
The Problems of Women in Combat – Part 2
January 31, 2013 by Jude Eden 13
For public releaseCol. Robert M Olivier USMCIMEFDM G-3 Information Operations
(Editor’s note: read part 1 here. The views expressed in this column are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect our views as an organization.)
In continuing the discussion of opening combat roles to women, we have the argument that women are already there, deploying and fighting in hot zones. This is true, and it gives us a record of the problems we are already experiencing as a result.
Wasted: Valuable Time, Training, and Resources
I talk about several of the female-only issues for which extra accommodations have to be made in my previous article. We are not equal except in our rights under Constitutional Law. Nature has no regard for equality, and each one of us is born differently from each other. We are diverse and dissimilar in our talents, physical aspects, intellect, and emotions; and the sexes are inherently different. We know, for example, that women are much more prone to certain types of infections. For a woman on patrol, setting up an ambush (or, as the infantry do, living in abandoned buildings with no running water), hygiene is a constant problem. A urinary tract infection can quickly become a kidney infection (debilitating in itself) and then kidney failure if left unchecked. Suddenly, a woman needs to be evacuated for a problem that has nothing to do with combat and to which men are not susceptible.
Then there’s pregnancy. Margaret Wente writes: “One study of a brigade operating in Iraq found that female soldiers were evacuated at three times the rate of male soldiers – and that 74 percent of them were evacuated for pregnancy-related issues.”
It costs approximately a million dollars per individual to get trained through bootcamp and to be made ready for deployment. Those are taxpayer dollars spent on someone who has to turn around and leave the combat zone to have a baby (for which our tax dollars also pay), having nothing to do with combat.
Changing Our Best Instincts: Protecting Women, Mothering Children
We know that rape is a tool of torture for the already savage enemy we’re fighting. In one TV interview, a woman suggested that if women are willing to take that risk, we should let them. She also absurdly claimed that men are raped as much as women when captured, which is patently false. But the idea that men shouldn’t worry any more about women in battle goes against the very best primal male instinct. In every country from Canada to Israel where women are in combat (and in American units where women are in theater), the men will tell you they are more protective of the women. It’s different from men’s protection of each other, and it distracts from mission completion. The pro-WICs would have men thwart this wonderful and thoroughly ingrained instinct. A world in which men don’t feel a strong need to protect women when they’re in the most dangerous and hostile of environments would be a nightmare. We would rightly call those men brutes.
We’re also thwarting mothers’ nurturing instincts. Women are already training to kill and leaving their children to deploy, even when they are the sole caregiver (turning care over namely to grandparents). This sets a bad precedent and hurts children. There will always be war, and it’s bad enough for fathers to leave their children to fight necessarily; but to allow mothers to choose this path over motherhood is bad for everyone. There are many noble capacities in which women with children can fight for this country, such as administrative jobs stateside. We don’t need to deploy mothers to battle; we shouldn’t.
A small handful of high-ranking females have instigated this policy change in order to advance their own careers. In this interview, Anu Bhagwati, a former Captain, complains about women not being able to be promoted to certain ranks, claims that women aren’t getting proper recognition for action in combat (a claim also made here), and claims that it’s harder for them to get combat-injury-related benefits from the VA. Regarding the latter, I know females who are receiving combat-injury-related benefits; so if there are some who are not receiving them but should, the bureaucratic, inefficient, fraud-riddled VA should be confronted. Administrative changes could certainly be considered to take care of veterans as we should – regardless of sex – for injuries sustained in battle thus far. As for recognition of action, this is also a bureaucratic aspect that can be addressed through the chain of command without changing the policies on women in combat units. And finally, as to rank, cry me a river. The military is about preparing for and executing war, not advancing your career at the cost of readiness for war.
The careerists are also on the hook for the double standard that we currently have for the sexes, which inherently lowers the standards overall. Even if one standard is imposed, it’s likely it will be an overall lower standard. As the Center for Military Readiness points out, “The same advocates who demand ‘equal opportunities’ in combat are the first to demand unequal, gender-normed standards to make it ‘fair.’” Enormous pressure from Washington is already on the military brass to fill quotas of race and sex; and the higher they get, the more politically motivated the brass’ decisions. Whereas imposing one higher standard would in fact result in fewer women serving in these roles, the political pressure to prove diversity will result in more unqualified women (and men) attaining positions for which men are more qualified. But go against the diversity status quo dictated by Washington, and you can kiss your rank and career goodbye. The purges have already begun.
The word “discriminate” has several meanings, including “to distinguish particular features, to be discerning; showing insight and understanding.” We should absolutely be discriminating in our criteria for war preparation, and the lives of our men in uniform depend on us taking an honest, discerning look at who adds to military readiness and who detracts from it. We should absolutely not open the combat units to the myriad problems we face already with women deploying to the theatre of war.
Read more at http://www.westernjournalism.com/the-problems-of-women-in-combat-part-2/#bfdmU74JhMZECzIt.99
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Blackwater's founder speaks
on: November 18, 2013, 06:56:03 AM
Ah, I did not know that. Thank you.
Anyway, here's my second post of the morning in this thread. Not really sure where to put it, but here seems reasonable:
Blackwater's Founder Blames U.S. for Its Troubles
Erik Prince Releases Memoir as He Writes His Next Chapter as Investor
By Dion Nissenbaum
Nov. 17, 2013 8:13 p.m. ET
After years of controversy, Erik Prince feels betrayed by the Obama administration – and he's looking to start a new chapter.
MIDDLEBURG, Va.—Blackwater founder Erik Prince personifies the hidden hand in America's terror wars. His company secretly armed and maintained drones in Pakistan, trained CIA hit teams, and collected $2 billion as a government security contractor.
Mr. Prince said he looks back on that adventure as "13 lost years." The billions of dollars are gone now, and he blames the U.S. government.
After a series of federal investigations, government contract battles and critical congressional hearings, Mr. Prince sold Blackwater in 2010. Following continued controversy over his most recent pursuits while based in Abu Dhabi, Mr. Prince has returned to Virginia to write a new chapter of his life—as an entrepreneur buying oil, land and minerals in Africa
On Monday, he is also releasing a memoir, "Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror." It is his attempt to defend his work, challenge public perceptions of Blackwater and settle scores with a government he says made him a scapegoat when things went badly overseas.
After founder Erik Prince sold Blackwater in 2010, he served as an adviser on efforts to set up security forces in Somalia and Abu Dhabi. Melissa Golden for The Wall Street Journal
Mr. Prince's rise-and-fall became emblematic of the shifting political currents since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
When al Qaeda struck the U.S. in 2001, Mr. Prince was a 32-year-old former Navy SEAL running a modest security training business he had built with family money in Moyock, N.C.
In his memoir, published by Penguin Random House's Portfolio Penguin, Mr. Prince says he provided the Central Intelligence Agency with links to Afghan warlords who helped the U.S. topple the Taliban and drive al Qaeda fighters into hiding. From there, Blackwater's business grew exponentially.
In interviews, Mr. Prince and former Blackwater officials provided previously unreported details of the company's dealings with the CIA and its former director, Leon Panetta. Blackwater's fortunes, which dimmed as the Iraq war dragged on, sank markedly when President Barack Obama took office in 2009 and sought distance from President George W. Bush's war policies.
A chief target of Mr. Prince's ire is Mr. Panetta, who in 2009 shut down the covert training operation for CIA "hit teams" that former Blackwater officials said took place on Mr. Prince's Virginia property.
The CIA had been sending officers for training at Blackwater's North Carolina training facility. But it wanted something closer to its Langley, Va., headquarters, former company officials said. So they asked Mr. Prince to build a small shooting range on his rural Virginia land.
"They needed a place that was only 35 minutes away from work," said Gary Jackson, the former Blackwater president. "Erik was OK with that, and he has the property, and we had the money." The trainings, including live-fire exercises, drew some complaints over the years from neighbors, Mr. Jackson said.
The CIA declined to comment on Mr. Prince's work for the agency.
At the time, former Blackwater officials said, the company also was working on America's clandestine drone program. Former company officials said that a few dozen Blackwater employees, taking the place of American military forces, maintained drones armed with Hellfire missiles in Pakistan. The company didn't fly them, but prepared them to launch attacks.
"I didn't have any drone pilots," said Mr. Jackson, in his most detailed comments yet on the company's covert work. "We loaded them, we protected them in secret bases, and we were hanging Hellfires on them."
When that information became public in 2009, right after Mr. Panetta canceled the Blackwater hit-team training, the CIA director ended the company's role in maintaining the drones.
Mr. Prince said he is convinced that Mr. Panetta outed him as a CIA "asset" at a closed congressional hearing that year, adding that it was unthinkable for a CIA director to reveal the real name of a covert operative to lawmakers.
A representative for Mr. Panetta said the former CIA director was required to brief Congress on covert operations and wasn't responsible for how others handled that information.
Last month, Mr. Prince said, he finally had a chance to confront Mr. Panetta when the two unexpectedly met at a small dinner in Washington. "He was unapologetic," Mr. Prince said. "He said, 'Well, we were taking a lot of guff for you guys.' That was the best he could come up with. At that point [in 2009], the company was doing everything his organization was asking for. Exactly everything."
"No one was out to scapegoat anyone in the relationship with Blackwater, but there were some issues that arose that prompted a serious look at contracts with the company," said one former CIA official involved in the discussions. "There was a perception that they were trying to run some of their own operations untethered from agency oversight."
Mr. Prince disputed allegations that Blackwater ever had "gone rogue." Indeed, he said two of his men might be alive if they had disobeyed the CIA in December 2009 at a base in Khost, Afghanistan. At Camp Chapman, Two Blackwater guards were among 10 killed when a Jordanian posing as a valued informant was able to get on the base without being searched and detonated a suicide vest.
"I wish our guys at Khost had gone rogue, because the Khost bombing probably wouldn't have occurred," he said. "They followed instructions, unfortunately, and didn't search the asset in violation of all those agency protocols. I wish they had."
Along with its clandestine work, Blackwater had a much more public role providing security for American diplomats and CIA spies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Blackwater guards were caricatured as war-zone cowboys. Blackwater convoys were feared in Iraq. The drivers were under State Department orders to do everything necessary to protect the agency's workers—directives that Mr. Prince alleges forced Blackwater to use aggressive tactics.
The State Department didn't comment on the allegation.
The company's first high-profile client in Iraq was Paul Bremer, the American diplomat who oversaw the U.S. government's early reconstruction efforts in Iraq. "Their job was to keep me alive," said Mr. Bremer. "I can say they never fired a shot in my presence, so they weren't a bunch of cowboys running around shooting at people."
Blackwater guards were involved in a series of deadly shooting incidents that alienated Iraqi citizens and the government. In September 2007, they killed 17 Iraqis in Baghdad's Nisour Square while protecting a State Department employee.
Last month, the Justice Department renewed the prosecution of four Blackwater guards involved in the shooting. A federal grand jury returned voluntary manslaughter charges in the case, which still generates anger in Iraq.
"On balance, I think [Blackwater] operated in irresponsible ways which led to a lot of hostility toward our country," said Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat and former chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, who grilled Mr. Prince during a 2007 hearing. "They were overpaid for their work, and there was little, if any, accountability to the U.S. or the Iraqi governments."
Following the Nisour Square shooting, the U.S. tightened its oversight and training of contractors to try to prevent another such incident, said Alex Gerlach, a State Department spokesman.
Mr. Prince faulted the State Department for canceling its work with Blackwater in 2009. And he argued that Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans killed in Benghazi, Libya, two years ago would be alive if the State Department still used Blackwater guards.
"If we had been doing security in Benghazi, it wouldn't have happened," he said. "I mean, there would be four Americans alive. Having done almost 100,000 movements in different areas over a period of nine years in Iraq and Afghanistan, I can say with pretty high assurance that that wouldn't have happened to us."
After the Obama administration cut most ties with Blackwater, Mr. Prince sold the company and moved to Abu Dhabi, where he quickly became embroiled in further controversy. Mr. Prince said he served as an adviser in setting up a privately trained antipiracy security force in Somalia that was accused of violating a U.N. arms embargo. And he was a consultant on a failed effort to set up a security force in Abu Dhabi made up largely of former Colombian soldiers.
Now, Mr. Prince says, he is done working for t he U.S. government. He has invested millions in setting up Frontier Resource Group, a private-equity firm that operates in more than a dozen African countries. The firm is building an oil refinery in South Sudan, owns a cement factory in the Democratic Republic of Congo, conducts aerial gas and oil surveys across the continent, and is looking at taking over idle oil wells damaged by insurgents in Nigeria, he said.
Mr. Prince says he knows he won't persuade many Americans that Blackwater wasn't an evil war profiteer. The people who matter, he says, are those Blackwater saved around the world.
"The people we helped in the field, they know what the legacy is," he said. "The 40% or so of Americans that really can't stand the name of Blackwater, that's fine, I'll never really win them over anyway. And I really don't care."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: The World of English Freedoms
on: November 18, 2013, 05:54:41 AM
The World of English Freedoms
It's no accident that the English-speaking nations are the ones most devoted to law and individual rights, writes Daniel Hannan
by Daniel Hannan
Nov. 15, 2013 6:17 p.m. ET
Asked, early in his presidency, whether he believed in American exceptionalism, Barack Obama gave a telling reply. "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism."
The first part of that answer is fascinating (we'll come back to the Greeks in a bit). Most Brits do indeed believe in British exceptionalism. But here's the thing: They define it in almost exactly the same way that Americans do. British exceptionalism, like its American cousin, has traditionally been held to reside in a series of values and institutions: personal liberty, free contract, jury trials, uncensored newspapers, regular elections, habeas corpus, open competition, secure property, religious pluralism.
The conceit of our era is to assume that these ideals are somehow the natural condition of an advanced society—that all nations will get around to them once they become rich enough and educated enough. In fact, these ideals were developed overwhelmingly in the language in which you are reading these words. You don't have to go back very far to find a time when freedom under the law was more or less confined to the Anglosphere: the community of English-speaking democracies.
Judges leave a service to mark the beginning of the legal year in England and Wales at Westminster Abbey in London on Oct. 1. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
In August 1941, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill met on the deck of HMS Prince of Wales off Newfoundland, no one believed that there was anything inevitable about the triumph of what the Nazis and Communists both called "decadent Anglo-Saxon capitalism." They called it "decadent" for a reason. Across the Eurasian landmass, freedom and democracy had retreated before authoritarianism, then thought to be the coming force. Though a small number of European countries had had their parliamentary systems overthrown by invaders, many more had turned to autocracy on their own, without needing to be occupied: Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain.
Churchill, of all people, knew that the affinity between the United States and the rest of the English-speaking world rested on more than a congruence of parliamentary systems, and he was determined to display that cultural affinity to maximum advantage when he met FDR.
It was a Sunday morning, and the British and American crewmen were paraded jointly on the decks of HMS Prince of Wales for a religious service. The prime minister was determined that "every detail be perfect," and the readings and hymns were meticulously chosen. The sailors listened as a chaplain read from Joshua 1 in the language of the King James Bible, revered in both nations: "As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and of a good courage."
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Why Tough Teachers Get Good Results (9/28/13)
The prime minister was delighted. "The same language, the same hymns and, more or less, the same ideals," he enthused. The same ideals: That was no platitude. The world was in the middle of the second of the three great global confrontations of the 20th century, in which countries that elevated the individual over the state contended for mastery against countries that did the opposite. The list of nations that were on the right side in all three of those conflicts is a short one, but it includes the Anglophone democracies.
We often use the word "Western" as a shorthand for liberal-democratic values, but we're really being polite. What we mean is countries that have adopted the Anglo-American system of government. The spread of "Western" values was, in truth, a series of military victories by the Anglosphere.
I realize that all this might seem strange to American readers. Am I not diluting the uniqueness of the U.S., the world's only propositional state, by lumping it in with the rest of the Anglosphere? Wasn't the republic founded in a violent rejection of the British Empire? Didn't Paul Revere rouse a nation with his cry of "the British are coming"?
Actually, no. That would have been a remarkably odd thing to yell at a Massachusetts population that had never considered itself anything other than British (what the plucky Boston silversmith actually shouted was "The regulars are coming out!"). The American Founders were arguing not for the rejection but for the assertion of what they took to be their birthright as Englishmen. They were revolutionaries in the 18th-century sense of the word, whereby a revolution was understood to be a complete turn of the wheel: a setting upright of that which had been placed on its head.
Photo Illustration by Stephen Webster; Corbis (poster)
Alexis de Tocqueville is widely quoted these days as a witness to American exceptionalism. Quoted, but evidently not so widely read, since at the very beginning of "Democracy in America," he flags up what is to be his main argument, namely, that the New World allowed the national characteristics of Europe's nations the freest possible expression. Just as French America exaggerated the autocracy and seigneurialism of Louis XIV's France, and Spanish America the ramshackle obscurantism of Philip IV's Spain, so English America (as he called it) exaggerated the localism, the libertarianism and the mercantilism of the mother country: "The American is the Englishman left to himself."
What made the Anglosphere different? Foreign visitors through the centuries remarked on a number of peculiar characteristics: the profusion of nonstate organizations, clubs, charities and foundations; the cheerful materialism of the population; the strong county institutions, including locally chosen law officers and judges; the easy coexistence of different denominations (religious toleration wasn't unique to the Anglosphere, but religious equality—that is, freedom for every sect to proselytize—was almost unknown in the rest of the world). They were struck by the weakness, in both law and custom, of the extended family, and by the converse emphasis on individualism. They wondered at the stubborn elevation of private property over raison d'état, of personal freedom over collective need.
Many of them, including Tocqueville and Montesquieu, connected the liberty that English-speakers took for granted to geography. Outside North America, most of the Anglosphere is an extended archipelago: Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, the more democratic Caribbean states. North America, although not literally isolated, was geopolitically more remote than any of them, "kindly separated by nature and a wide ocean," as Jefferson put it in his 1801 inaugural address, "from the exterminating havoc [of Europe]."
Isolation meant that there was no need for a standing army in peacetime, which in turn meant that the government had no mechanism for internal repression. When rulers wanted something, usually revenue, they had to ask nicely, by summoning people's representatives in an assembly. It is no coincidence that the world's oldest parliaments—England, Iceland, the Faroes, the Isle of Man—are on islands.
Above all, liberty was tied up with something that foreign observers could only marvel at: the miracle of the common law. Laws weren't written down in the abstract and then applied to particular disputes; they built up, like a coral reef, case by case. They came not from the state but from the people. The common law wasn't a tool of government but an ally of liberty: It placed itself across the path of the Stuarts and George III; it ruled that the bonds of slavery disappeared the moment a man set foot on English soil.
There was a fashion for florid prose in the 18th century, but the second American president, John Adams, wasn't exaggerating when he identified the Anglosphere's beautiful, anomalous legal system—which today covers most English-speaking countries plus Israel, almost an honorary member of the club, alongside the Netherlands and the Nordic countries—as the ultimate guarantor of freedom: "The liberty, the unalienable, indefeasible rights of men, the honor and dignity of human nature... and the universal happiness of individuals, were never so skillfully and successfully consulted as in that most excellent monument of human art, the common law of England."
Freedom under the law is a portable commodity, passed on through intellectual exchange rather than gene flow. Anyone can benefit from constitutional liberty simply by adopting the right institutions and the cultural assumptions that go with them. The Anglosphere is why Bermuda is not Haiti, why Singapore is not Indonesia, why Hong Kong is not China—and, for that matter, not Macau. As the distinguished Indian writer Madhav Das Nalapat, holder of the Unesco Peace Chair, puts it, the Anglosphere is defined not by racial affinity but "by the blood of the mind."
At a time when most countries defined citizenship by ancestry, Britain was unusual in developing a civil rather than an ethnic nationality. The U.S., as so often, distilled and intensified a tendency that had been present in Great Britain, explicitly defining itself as a creedal polity: Anyone can become American simply by signing up to the values inherent in the Constitution.
There is, of course, a flip-side. If the U.S. abandons its political structures, it will lose its identity more thoroughly than states that define nationality by blood or territory. Power is shifting from the 50 states to Washington, D.C., from elected representatives to federal bureaucrats, from citizens to the government. As the U.S. moves toward European-style health care, day care, college education, carbon taxes, foreign policy and spending levels, so it becomes less prosperous, less confident and less free.
We sometimes talk of the English-speaking nations as having a culture of independence. But culture does not exist, numinously, alongside institutions; it is a product of institutions. People respond to incentives. Make enough people dependent on the state, and it won't be long before Americans start behaving and voting like…well, like Greeks.
Which brings us back to Mr. Obama's curiously qualified defense of American exceptionalism. Outside the Anglosphere, people have traditionally expected—indeed, demanded—far more state intervention. They look to the government to solve their problems, and when the government fails, they become petulant.
That is the point that much of Europe has reached now. Greeks, like many Europeans, spent decades increasing their consumption without increasing their production. They voted for politicians who promised to keep the good times going and rejected those who argued for fiscal restraint. Even now, as the calamity overwhelms them, they refuse to take responsibility for their own affairs by leaving the euro and running their own economy. It's what happens when an electorate is systematically infantilized.
The owl of Minerva, wrote Hegel, spreads its wings only with the gathering of the dusk. Since the middle of the 18th century, the hegemony of the English-speaking peoples has drawn many other nations into a uniquely free, democratic and wealthy world order. The Anglo-American imperium is, by most measures, reaching its twilight. But the values of the Anglosphere, particularly the unique emphasis on individualism, ought to be perfectly suited to the Internet age. And such values can take root anywhere.
Perhaps the most important geopolitical question of the 21st century is this: Will India define itself primarily as a member of the Anglosphere or as an Asian power? In the decades after independence, India did what all former colonies do, adopting policies aimed at underlining its differences from the former occupier. Successive governments promoted autarky, the Hindi language and equidistance between the Western and Soviet blocs.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill on board the HMS Prince of Wales, August 1941 Hulton Archive/Getty Images
But India has long since passed its moment of maximum orbital distance from the other Anglophone democracies. The traits that continue to set it apart from most of its neighbors are, for want of a better shorthand, Anglosphere characteristics.
In India, governments come and go as the result of elections, without anyone being exiled or shot. The armed forces stay out of politics. English is the language of government and of most universities and businesses. Property rights and free contract are secured by a common-law system, which remains open to individuals seeking redress. Shared values lead to shared habits. When, in the aftermath of the tsunami 10 years ago, the U.S., Australian and Indian navies coordinated the relief effort, they found an interoperability that goes beyond even that found among NATO allies.
If India were to take its place at the heart of a loose Anglosphere network, based on free trade and military alliance, the future would suddenly look a great deal brighter. Of course, to join such a free trade area, the U.K. and Ireland would have to leave the EU. But that's another story.
Mr. Hannan has represented South East England in the European Parliament since 1999. This essay is adapted from his new book, "Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World," which has just been published by HarperCollins.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: New look at the 90s
on: November 18, 2013, 05:48:21 AM
In Clinton, New Look at '90s
Both Sides Seek Salient Lessons in Her Tenure as First Lady; 'Mother of Obamacare'?
By Peter Nicholas
Updated Nov. 17, 2013 7:42 p.m. ET
The presidential election is three years out and Hillary Clinton hasn't even said she is running, but her political future has already touched off a re-examination of a central part of her past: the 1990s.
Republican researchers are mining archives from the Bill Clinton era in search of material that could be used to hobble her candidacy. In particular, they are laying the groundwork to capitalize on Mrs. Clinton's efforts as chairman of a task force to overhaul the health-care system in 1993-94, casting what they call "HillaryCare" as a forerunner of the Affordable Care Act that, at this point, is generally unpopular.
"She could be the mother of Obamacare," said Neil Newhouse, a Republican pollster.
Mrs. Clinton, in speeches she has been giving since leaving the State Department, has signaled she would use the 1990s as a selling point if she jumps in the race, making the case that, as first lady, she was part of an era that found solutions to the same sorts of political difficulties that bedevil present-day Washington.
Should Mrs. Clinton run, GOP campaign strategists also are zeroing in on the financial dealings of her husband's foundation and on the terrorist attack at a diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans last year, while Mrs. Clinton was secretary of state. But a thorough re-litigation of the 1990s could be on the horizon.
Both sides are using the same episodes from the decade to argue to their advantage. Take the government shutdown in 1995-'96, which has special resonance in light of the 16-day shutdown that played out last month.
In recent speeches, Mrs. Clinton has mentioned the earlier shutdown to illustrate how the Clinton White House dealt with the type of gridlock that now engulfs Washington.
Speaking at Colgate University last month, she said that during the 1990s shutdown, then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich "would spend all day saying terrible things about Bill on every TV station he could get on—occasionally about me as well—and then he would come to the White House at 9 o'clock at night" to strike a deal.
Implicit in the argument: She wouldn't let partisan differences harden to the point where the two sides stop talking.
Republican strategists, who expect Mrs. Clinton to run and believe she would be a heavy favorite to win the Democratic nomination, said they would portray the 1990s shutdown as a turbulent part of the Bill Clinton era, seeking to remind voters that Mrs. Clinton was in the White House during a time of political dysfunction that echoes the present day.
"People remember all this crazy stuff that was happening in the 1990s, like the government shutdown, and they say, 'Who needs that again?' " said a Republican strategist who is preparing for a possible Clinton bid.
Researchers at the Republican National Committee and conservative groups are sifting through old Clinton administration records to see if there is anything that takes on new relevance in view of her service in the Obama administration. They have fresh records to mine. The watchdog group Judicial Watch, through litigation, recently won the release of about 57,000 pages of health-care records from the Clinton presidential library in Little Rock, Ark.
In Mrs. Clinton's circle, associates fully expect Republicans to aggressively attack her on all fronts. One person close to her said: "I'm losing track—so far it's been the Golden Girls, Benghazi, the 1990s."
If she does run, Mrs. Clinton could rebut attacks by asserting that as secretary of state she had little responsibility for domestic policy and even less to do with the health-law rollout that has caused such difficulties for the president. The plan she proposed in the early 1990s would have capped premiums in order to hold down costs and would have created a system under which insurers would be required to bid for regional business.
In her 2008 presidential bid, her unsuccessful 1990s health revamp didn't loom large as an issue because she was rolling out a new proposal that, like the Affordable Care Act, included a mandate under which individuals would have to buy insurance.
In her Colgate speech, she trumpeted the budget surpluses that marked her husband's last years in office. "We were on a path to literally paying off our debt—not just our deficit—at the end of my husband's second term," she said. She went on to say that after Mr. Clinton left office the surpluses disappeared as a result of "two wars and a very large tax cut," among other reasons.
Republicans argue the economic gains under Bill Clinton didn't prove durable and that the middle class is struggling five years into the Obama presidency.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Krugman struggles with reality
on: November 18, 2013, 05:40:40 AM
A Permanent Slump?
By PAUL KRUGMAN
Published: November 17, 2013 190 Comments
Spend any time around monetary officials and one word you’ll hear a lot is “normalization.” Most though not all such officials accept that now is no time to be tightfisted, that for the time being credit must be easy and interest rates low. Still, the men in dark suits look forward eagerly to the day when they can go back to their usual job, snatching away the punch bowl whenever the party gets going.
But what if the world we’ve been living in for the past five years is the new normal? What if depression-like conditions are on track to persist, not for another year or two, but for decades?
You might imagine that speculations along these lines are the province of a radical fringe. And they are indeed radical; but fringe, not so much. A number of economists have been flirting with such thoughts for a while. And now they’ve moved into the mainstream. In fact, the case for “secular stagnation” — a persistent state in which a depressed economy is the norm, with episodes of full employment few and far between — was made forcefully recently at the most ultrarespectable of venues, the I.M.F.’s big annual research conference. And the person making that case was none other than Larry Summers. Yes, that Larry Summers.
And if Mr. Summers is right, everything respectable people have been saying about economic policy is wrong, and will keep being wrong for a long time.
Mr. Summers began with a point that should be obvious but is often missed: The financial crisis that started the Great Recession is now far behind us. Indeed, by most measures it ended more than four years ago. Yet our economy remains depressed.
He then made a related point: Before the crisis we had a huge housing and debt bubble. Yet even with this huge bubble boosting spending, the overall economy was only so-so — the job market was O.K. but not great, and the boom was never powerful enough to produce significant inflationary pressure.
Mr. Summers went on to draw a remarkable moral: We have, he suggested, an economy whose normal condition is one of inadequate demand — of at least mild depression — and which only gets anywhere close to full employment when it is being buoyed by bubbles.
I’d weigh in with some further evidence. Look at household debt relative to income. That ratio was roughly stable from 1960 to 1985, but rose rapidly and inexorably from 1985 to 2007, when crisis struck. Yet even with households going ever deeper into debt, the economy’s performance over the period as a whole was mediocre at best, and demand showed no sign of running ahead of supply. Looking forward, we obviously can’t go back to the days of ever-rising debt. Yet that means weaker consumer demand — and without that demand, how are we supposed to return to full employment?
Again, the evidence suggests that we have become an economy whose normal state is one of mild depression, whose brief episodes of prosperity occur only thanks to bubbles and unsustainable borrowing.
Why might this be happening? One answer could be slowing population growth. A growing population creates a demand for new houses, new office buildings, and so on; when growth slows, that demand drops off. America’s working-age population rose rapidly in the 1960s and 1970s, as baby boomers grew up, and its work force rose even faster, as women moved into the labor market. That’s now all behind us. And you can see the effects: Even at the height of the housing bubble, we weren’t building nearly as many houses as in the 1970s.
Another important factor may be persistent trade deficits, which emerged in the 1980s and since then have fluctuated but never gone away.
Why does all of this matter? One answer is that central bankers need to stop talking about “exit strategies.” Easy money should, and probably will, be with us for a very long time. This, in turn, means we can forget all those scare stories about government debt, which run along the lines of “It may not be a problem now, but just wait until interest rates rise.”
More broadly, if our economy has a persistent tendency toward depression, we’re going to be living under the looking-glass rules of depression economics — in which virtue is vice and prudence is folly, in which attempts to save more (including attempts to reduce budget deficits) make everyone worse off — for a long time.
I know that many people just hate this kind of talk. It offends their sense of rightness, indeed their sense of morality. Economics is supposed to be about making hard choices (at other people’s expense, naturally). It’s not supposed to be about persuading people to spend more.
But as Mr. Summers said, the crisis “is not over until it is over” — and economic reality is what it is. And what that reality appears to be right now is one in which depression rules will apply for a very long time.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Are Cameras the New Guns?
on: November 17, 2013, 11:18:36 PM
Are Cameras the New Guns?
Are Cameras the New Guns?Expand
In response to a flood of Facebook and YouTube videos that depict police abuse, a new trend in law enforcement is gaining popularity. In at least three states, it is now illegal to record any on-duty police officer.
Even if the encounter involves you and may be necessary to your defense, and even if the recording is on a public street where no expectation of privacy exists.
The legal justification for arresting the "shooter" rests on existing wiretapping or eavesdropping laws, with statutes against obstructing law enforcement sometimes cited. Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland are among the 12 states in which all parties must consent for a recording to be legal unless, as with TV news crews, it is obvious to all that recording is underway. Since the police do not consent, the camera-wielder can be arrested. Most all-party-consent states also include an exception for recording in public places where "no expectation of privacy exists" (Illinois does not) but in practice this exception is not being recognized.
Massachusetts attorney June Jensen represented Simon Glik who was arrested for such a recording. She explained, "[T]he statute has been misconstrued by Boston police. You could go to the Boston Common and snap pictures and record if you want." Legal scholar and professor Jonathan Turley agrees, "The police are basing this claim on a ridiculous reading of the two-party consent surveillance law - requiring all parties to consent to being taped. I have written in the area of surveillance law and can say that this is utter nonsense."
The courts, however, disagree. A few weeks ago, an Illinois judge rejected a motion to dismiss an eavesdropping charge against Christopher Drew, who recorded his own arrest for selling one-dollar artwork on the streets of Chicago. Although the misdemeanor charges of not having a peddler's license and peddling in a prohibited area were dropped, Drew is being prosecuted for illegal recording, a Class I felony punishable by 4 to 15 years in prison.
In 2001, when Michael Hyde was arrested for criminally violating the state's electronic surveillance law - aka recording a police encounter - the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld his conviction 4-2. In dissent, Chief Justice Margaret Marshall stated, "Citizens have a particularly important role to play when the official conduct at issue is that of the police. Their role cannot be performed if citizens must fear criminal reprisals…." (Note: In some states it is the audio alone that makes the recording illegal.)
The selection of "shooters" targeted for prosecution do, indeed, suggest a pattern of either reprisal or an attempt to intimidate.
Glik captured a police action on his cellphone to document what he considered to be excessive force. He was not only arrested, his phone was also seized.
On his website Drew wrote, "Myself and three other artists who documented my actions tried for two months to get the police to arrest me for selling art downtown so we could test the Chicago peddlers license law. The police hesitated for two months because they knew it would mean a federal court case. With this felony charge they are trying to avoid this test and ruin me financially and stain my credibility."
Hyde used his recording to file a harassment complaint against the police. After doing so, he was criminally charged.
In short, recordings that are flattering to the police - an officer kissing a baby or rescuing a dog - will almost certainly not result in prosecution even if they are done without all-party consent. The only people who seem prone to prosecution are those who embarrass or confront the police, or who somehow challenge the law. If true, then the prosecutions are a form of social control to discourage criticism of the police or simple dissent.
A recent arrest in Maryland is both typical and disturbing.
On March 5, 24-year-old Anthony John Graber III's motorcycle was pulled over for speeding. He is currently facing criminal charges for a video he recorded on his helmet-mounted camera during the traffic stop.
The case is disturbing because:
1) Graber was not arrested immediately. Ten days after the encounter, he posted some of he material to YouTube, and it embarrassed Trooper J. D. Uhler. The trooper, who was in plainclothes and an unmarked car, jumped out waving a gun and screaming. Only later did Uhler identify himself as a police officer. When the YouTube video was discovered the police got a warrant against Graber, searched his parents' house (where he presumably lives), seized equipment, and charged him with a violation of wiretapping law.
2) Baltimore criminal defense attorney Steven D. Silverman said he had never heard of the Maryland wiretap law being used in this manner. In other words, Maryland has joined the expanding trend of criminalizing the act of recording police abuse. Silverman surmises, "It's more [about] ‘contempt of cop' than the violation of the wiretapping law."
3) Police spokesman Gregory M. Shipley is defending the pursuit of charges against Graber, denying that it is "some capricious retribution" and citing as justification the particularly egregious nature of Graber's traffic offenses. Oddly, however, the offenses were not so egregious as to cause his arrest before the video appeared.
Almost without exception, police officials have staunchly supported the arresting officers. This argues strongly against the idea that some rogue officers are overreacting or that a few cops have something to hide. "Arrest those who record the police" appears to be official policy, and it's backed by the courts.
Carlos Miller at the Photography Is Not A Crime website offers an explanation: "For the second time in less than a month, a police officer was convicted from evidence obtained from a videotape. The first officer to be convicted was New York City Police Officer Patrick Pogan, who would never have stood trial had it not been for a video posted on Youtube showing him body slamming a bicyclist before charging him with assault on an officer. The second officer to be convicted was Ottawa Hills (Ohio) Police Officer Thomas White, who shot a motorcyclist in the back after a traffic stop, permanently paralyzing the 24-year-old man."
When the police act as though cameras were the equivalent of guns pointed at them, there is a sense in which they are correct. Cameras have become the most effective weapon that ordinary people have to protect against and to expose police abuse. And the police want it to stop.
Happily, even as the practice of arresting "shooters" expands, there are signs of effective backlash. At least one Pennsylvania jurisdiction has reaffirmed the right to video in public places. As part of a settlement with ACLU attorneys who represented an arrested "shooter," the police in Spring City and East Vincent Township adopted a written policy allowing the recording of on-duty policemen.
As journalist Radley Balko declares, "State legislatures should consider passing laws explicitly making it legal to record on-duty law enforcement officials."
Wendy McElroy is the author of several books on anarchism and feminism. She maintains the iconoclastic website ifeminists.net as well as an active blog at wendymcelroy.com.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread
on: November 17, 2013, 11:09:10 PM
GSP has been a great champion as a fighter and as best as we can tell as a man. IIRC he now holds the all time record for rounds in the UFC or something like that. He showed true heart last night and deserves respect for whatever decision he makes now.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dr. Ben Carson
on: November 17, 2013, 09:52:40 AM
CARSON: Heeding the warning signs of America’s dramatic decline
By Ben S. Carson
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
People wait for a bus outside a shuttered art center in Detroit. Mayor Dave Bing is challenging the Census Bureau's count that put the city's population below the important threshold of 750,000, the level needed to qualify for some state and federal aid programs. (Associated Press)
What do the following five things have in common? The highest corporate-tax rate in the world; high personal and small-business taxes; the Affordable Care Act; an oppressive regulatory atmosphere with intimidation rather than help from the government; and overly aggressive environmental-protection policies.
These five things — along with the devaluing of the U.S. dollar by the constant printing of money backed up by nothing but reputation — are largely responsible for an extremely sluggish economy that has little hope of improvement without a drastic change in economic philosophy.
I was recently talking to a couple of very well-known entrepreneurs who had been extremely successful in creating vibrant businesses in the past.
Both said they would not even consider starting a new business in the current economic environment. I also asked some people who had started companies that are household names whether they think they could have succeeded in today’s environment. Their answer was a resounding no.
This economic environment is toxic for growth. Americans must face the reality that our massive federal debt will eventually drown our children if we don’t have the courage to act now and stop kicking the can down the road.
It may feel good to some to print money at will and borrow as long as someone will lend us money, but what does this say about our compassion for those who will follow us?
Having grown up in Detroit, I am particularly sad to see what has happened to a once-vibrant city that was the wealthiest in the nation. Many blame unions for strangling the goose that laid the golden egg, but unions serve their members and seldom have a big-picture perspective that takes into account the well-being of the larger society.
I believe a great deal of the fault resides with the upper management of the Big Three automobile companies, who tolerated the excesses of the unions. They must have been fully aware that in due time, the consequences of such actions would be devastating not only to the automobile companies, but to the city, the state and the nation.
Of course, by that time, they would have long ago escaped with their golden parachutes. Detroit is but a harbinger of the fate that will befall our beloved nation if we don’t heed the warnings so vividly placed before us.
Moreover, this toxic business environment is the perfect cultural medium for the growth of victimhood and the entitlement mentality. Political correctness dictates that one should never say such a thing for fear of being labeled heartless. I not only reject outright such foolishness, but rather I feel very strongly that these measures that suppress economic development also suppress the hopes and dreams of many Americans.
I fear that the secular progressives have been winning lately by succeeding in convincing large portions of the population that they should be more concerned about the benefits they can collect than about the opportunities they lose when their God-given talents for achievement are replaced with dependence on government.
We need to understand the connection between dynamic economic growth and the general welfare of the people. For anyone who does not understand: Robust economic growth creates plenty of jobs and opportunities for everyone and decreases the need for government dependency.
Some on the side of big government will say, “There you go again talking about trickle-down economic theory,” as they attempt to denigrate the empirical data supporting the validity of supply-side economics. I don’t think it’s necessary to attach fancy nomenclature to a theory of common sense.
I am extremely encouraged by the resurgence of rationality I am seeing all around our country. I see people who understand that by adopting a reasonable corporate-tax rate, we can reverse the flow of economic activity out of our country.
By adopting reasonable individual and small-business tax rates, we can again encourage hard work and entrepreneurship. By taking this opportunity to look at some alternative methods of providing truly affordable health care to everyone in our nation and working together, we can all win. By having a government that minds its own constitutional business and stays out of ours, we will see a revival of the can-do attitude with explosive entrepreneurial successes.
By having an Environmental Protection Agency that works with our technological institutions, we can safely exploit the largest reserves of natural energy in the world and stop supporting those nations that desire our destruction.
We can do all this and more if we use our talents in a synergistic manner and forget about who gets the credit. Most importantly, we must remember that we have a responsibility to those who will follow us. Please, let us not fail them.
Ben S. Carson is professor emeritus of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University.
Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/nov/12/carson-heeding-the-warning-signs-of-decline/#ixzz2kv0z90EC
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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH: Ocare is dead! Long live Ocare! McCarthy: It's a trap!
on: November 17, 2013, 09:28:04 AM
Obamacare Is Dead. Long Live Obamacare!
By Victor Davis Hanson
November 13, 2013 1:00 PM
In the next 90 days, the Obama administration will have to declare victory and then abandon most of Obamacare.
The legislation defies the laws of physics—more and broader coverage for more people at less cost—as well as logic: Young people, on average as a cohort with higher debt and less employment, will pay more for coverage they do not use much to subsidize others, often better off, to pay less for coverage they use a lot. It will be interesting how the administration pulls it off, given its past record of often being successful at this sort of dissimulation.
The “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”—despite the euphemistic name, the legislation has caused millions to lose their coverage and upped the costs for millions more—is a stone around the necks of Democratic congressional candidates, and something political will have to be done within the next year to address it. The Obama administration’s first impulse will probably be haphazard and periodic non-compliance with the law in the manner of its treatment of the employer mandate, and, for that matter, all sorts of other “settled” legislation that, for political reasons, it simply chose not to enforce, from pre-election border enforcement and the Defense of Marriage Act to the contractual order of the Chrysler creditors. In that regard, the administration might table the individual mandate or administratively change the wording of required insurance protocols to let people keep their old plans that were recently dismissed as “bad apples” or “junk.” Maybe they could call all that “pro-choice,” or “good apples.”
A second and previously popular Obama strategy—cf. the war on terror rebranded with “workplace violence,” “largely secular,” “man-caused disasters,” and “overseas contingency operations”—would be just to scrap most of the law and keep a tiny sliver like the front-ended goodies (such as not losing your insurance for preexisting conditions or keeping children on parental plans until 26) and restamping that tiny change as the old Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, while quietly dismantling the program piecemeal.
Each time Obama has had to square the circle—e.g., keeping or expanding the hated Bush-Cheney anti-terrorism protocols while still demagoguing them—he has resorted to philology and simply changed the meanings of things. He will probably tell us the naked health-care emperor is fully dressed in the way that the tenfold expansion of the drone program was a legacy of Bush, or the willingness to exceed the U.N. in Libya, ignore it in Syria, and undermine it with Iran is “working with the UN.”
I don’t see as viable the third, and no doubt favored, solution: a stealth attempt by fiat to implement a single-payer system. Assuring the people that the problem with Obamacare was not enough government rather than too much does not seem like a winner. Somehow the Obama administration took public distrust of insurance companies and transmogrified that suspicion into greater distrust of government. And when they talk of drafting techies to the rescue of the website, they seem not to be talking about more GS somethings, but hip Silicon Valleyites from the correct part of the private sector. For now there can be no more presidential sweeping statements about not losing this or not paying more for that, but probably silence, as administration lawyers administratively chart non-compliance strategies and the usual politicos find ways to call that a smashing success.
It Is a Trap
By Andrew C. McCarthy
November 14, 2013 10:53 AM
Count me in the Erick Erickson camp when it comes to the Upton gimmickry – because, at best, that’s all it is. Republicans would make a big mistake backing it.
The GOP should not be working to “fix” Obamacare. That would just further tar Republicans as part owners of Obamacare. They should be working to scrap Obamacare now, while the political momentum is swinging to their side. Democrats are rightly starting to panic, so Republicans should be driving a hard bargain – push for repeal, settle for nothing less than delay. The last thing they should be doing is throwing endangered Democrats a lifeline to reelection in 2014.
Even if Obamacare were fixable and the GOP had an interest in helping fix it – and neither is the case – Representative Fred Upton’s “Keep Your Plan Act” nonsense does not come close to being a fix. The Wall Street Journal’s editors acknowledge this morning that the bill is essentially pointless – even though they weirdly give Upton a tepid thumbs-up. Insurance companies have already done the years of planning that competent compliance with the “Affordable” Care Act called for, meaning they have shut down the plans and made new arrangements based on Obamacare’s extensive mandates. That process was and remains complicated and it cannot be undone on the dime. The health-insurance plans that have been lost are gone. You won’t be able to “Keep Your Plan” if the plan no longer exists . . . unless, of course, you believe our Constitution allows Leviathan to order insurance companies to create and issue plans that were dropped precisely because of Obamacare – and we’ll get to that (i.e., Senator Mary Landrieu’s plan) in a second.
In countering Erick Erickson at the Corner, Jeffrey Anderson ends up conceding most of Erick’s case:
Erickson is certainly right that Obamacare is not fixable, that Republican
shouldn’t be trying to fix it in any event, and that the only real solution to [Obamacare] is to repeal it. . . . He’s also right that the Upton bill won’t bring back to life all of the plans that Obamacare has already killed off with its coercive mandates.
Yet, Mr. Anderson says Republicans should press ahead with the Upton bill anyway, even though it cannot do what it pretends to do – and that’s not gonna enrage people at all when they figure that out, right? His scattershot reasoning is a good example of why the GOP always gets rolled in these skirmishes.
Even though the insurance plans in question are gone, Anderson urges that if, after Upton has passed, insurers declined to restore them, “the GOP would then be free to criticize those insurers,” who stand to reap a trillion taxpayer dollars. Of course, that is precisely the fraudulent narrative Democrats are desperately trying to sell: “It’s not Obama and congressional Democrats who are responsible for the unfolding catastrophe – it’s the bad insurance companies.” Anderson would have Republicans unwittingly join Democrats in selling this snake-oil.
That, naturally, would ease the way to passage of Landrieu’s alternative (actually, more a companion than an alternative to Upton). As Anderson observes, Landrieu’s bill is “more of the heavy-handed, coercive model of government that gave us Obamacare to begin with.” It purports to force insurance companies to reoffer plans that no longer make business sense due to the very conditions created by Democrats.
Anderson nevertheless sees no tension between supporting Upton and opposing Landrieu because, even as they join Democrats in clubbing the insurers, those ever-deft Republicans will easily be able to mount a simultaneous constitutional argument that Landrieu’s bill violates the Commerce Clause. And yes, that would be the same constitutional argument that failed to stop passage of Obamacare, that took three years for the Supreme Court to resolve, and despite which Chief Justice Roberts contrived a way to uphold Obamacare anyway.
I’m sure the American people will find this GOP constitutional razzmatazz very clear and compelling. By the way, did I mention that Upton, Mr. Ban the Light Bulb himself, has already signaled his support for Landrieu’s coercive bill? Yup, he proclaims it “even a bigger and perhaps better step than what we have in the House.” He sure has mastered those Commerce Clause talking-points, no?
Anderson also contends that the Upton bill would “badly undermine Obamacare’s exchanges, which would then be drained of millions of . . . people whom Obama wanted to compel to buy exchange-based plans.” (Emphasis in original.) What millions of people? As Patrick Brennan recounted here yesterday, even by inflating the numbers to include people who haven’t actually purchased plans, the Obamacare exchanges have barely been able to recruit a hundred thousand people – they are nowhere close to “millions” of applicants. People do not need the Upton bill to grasp that Obamacare is a bad deal and that they’d prefer the plans they were falsely promised they could keep. They got that.
The Upton bill would do nothing to relieve Americans who have lost their plans due to Obamacare, but it would help Democrats (a) demagogue the insurance companies, (b) pass more unconstitutional and coercive legislation, and (c) get reelected. In Louisiana, Republicans would be helping Senator Landrieu campaign as the crusader who fought to save people’s health plans – that would be the same Mary Landrieu who extorted a $300 million kickback (the infamous “Louisiana Purchase”) in exchange for voting to impose Obamacare on the country, and then helped defeat the GOP resolution that would have prevented the millions of insurance-plan cancellations Americans are suffering today.
I confess to being a bit puzzled. Wasn’t it just a couple of weeks ago that Republican leaders were saying that the only way to repeal Obamacare is to win elections?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH: The rule of law?
on: November 17, 2013, 09:17:35 AM
The Rule of Law?
By Victor Davis Hanson
November 14, 2013 1:55 PM
When his pet businesses did not like elements of the Affordable Care Act, Obama simply exempted them. When employers objected that their mandate would unduly hamper job creation, the president simply ignored the settled law and exempted them. Now, when millions have lost their coverage, the president is said to be ready to again reinterpret settled law and no longer demand that private insurance plans conform to the ACA statute, at least for a year.
Aside from the question of whether it is legal or right for the president to decide arbitrarily which elements of legislation to faithfully execute, it is also a sort of new way of ad hoc governing: The president grandly introduces a new piece of unworkable legislation, does not know or care much about the consequences of implementing it, demagogues the bill, demonizes the opposition, gets it passed, uses the passage for political purposes, and then waits to see what happens in the real world.
When more than 50 percent of the country is outraged, he scraps what he finds politically useful to scrap (“enforcement discretion”). Apparently, Obama believes that after such trial and error he will work the bugs out of the ACA and end up with what he can call a success — too bad for those who lose coverage or pay more in the meantime and for the legalists who worry that what he is doing is against the law.
All this is right out of the radical Athenian assembly, which on any given day could do whatever its majority wished and then the next undo whatever it wished. But such governance is not what the framers had in mind when they established the checks and balances of a republican tripartite government and entrusted the president with faithfully executing all the laws passed by congress and signed by him.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Russia vs. Europe in the Ukraine
on: November 17, 2013, 08:42:34 AM
Russia and Europe Vie to Win the Prize of Ukraine
Putin's grand plan to restore the Russian empire may depend on which way Kiev goes later this month.
by Walter Russell Mead
Nov. 15, 2013 6:27 p.m. ET
This could be the month that determines the success or collapse of Vladimir Putin's strategic plan for Russia. Even as shrewd Russian diplomacy runs rings around a stumbling White House on Syria, and as NSA revelations by Mr. Putin's honored guest Edward Snowden continue to strain U.S. ties with allies, the Russian president's imperial dream is hanging by a thread.
His problem is Ukraine, which since the early 1990s has resisted multiple attempts by Russia—some diplomatic, some subversive, some bellicose—to bring it back under Moscow's control. The turning point may be Ukraine's decision later this month on whether to sign a free-trade agreement with the European Union.
The collapse of the Soviet Union ended 200 years of Russian expansion and empire building. Under the czars, Russian territory stretched past Warsaw into the heart of Central Europe; Stalin's armies camped on the Elbe. President Putin called the Soviet collapse "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century."
Russia has lots of reasons to want its old empire back. Control of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan will give Russia more control over world oil and gas markets. Central Asia is rich in resources and Russia fears both Chinese and Islamist ambitions there. The Baltic republics occupy part of what Russia regards as a necessary security frontier against NATO and the West around St. Petersburg. The Baltics also cut Russia off from the Kaliningrad enclave (formerly known as Königsberg and seized from Germany at the end of World War II) and contain sizable Russian minorities.
But there is no doubt that, psychologically and practically, the crown jewel of Russia's lost empire is Ukraine. Its capital Kiev was the birthplace of Russian culture and for many Russians it is an integral part of their homeland. The Crimea is a mostly ethnic-Russian region that Nikita Khrushchev arbitrarily deeded over to Ukraine in 1954. The eastern half of the country speaks Russian and many people there would be happy to return to Moscow's arms.
It isn't just nostalgia that draws Russia to Ukraine. It's also about power and security. With Ukraine back in the fold, Russia has the potential to become the kind of great European power whose interests the EU cannot disregard. Recovering Ukraine is how Vladimir Putin can become Vladimir the Great, ranking with Peter, Catherine and Alexander I as a dominant figure in Russian history.
Mr. Putin's chosen instrument for the first stage in the restoration of Russia as a great power is what he calls the Eurasian Union. This counterpart to the European Union would bring the former Soviet states first into a customs union and then increasingly move toward integration as the EU has done. To get ex-Soviet states to join, Russia is pulling out all the stops.
Kazakhstan and ever-loyal Belarus have already signed up. Armenia has announced its intention to join. Georgia's prime minister says that his country would consider membership if Russia returned the Georgian territories it holds, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
But Ukraine is the pearl of great price. With Ukraine, the Eurasian Union is on the road to becoming a significant force; without Kiev, it is little more than a bluff.
The Kremlin has had reason to be optimistic about Ukraine since the current president, Viktor Yanukovych, defeated his archrival, the pro-Western Yulia Tymoshenko, as power returned to political parties based in the eastern, more pro-Russian half of Ukraine. When the Yanukovych government had Ms. Tymoshenko jailed for corruption in 2011, the EU responded by pressuring Mr. Yanukovych to release her and more generally to make government more transparent. From a Kremlin point of view this looked promising; Mr. Yanukovych and the oligarchs around him would surely prefer a closer, no-questions-asked relationship with Moscow than to enter a free-trade agreement with the busybodies of the EU.
Yet to Moscow's profound displeasure, Ukraine has so far shown strong signs of preferring the EU to Russia as its primary trade and political partner. Even Russian-speaking oligarchs in eastern Ukraine believe that the EU offers greater opportunities and perhaps more security for their wealth than a closer association with Mr. Putin's Russia.
November looks like the month of decision. On Nov. 28 the EU is holding a summit in Vilnius for eastern countries like Ukraine, and Ukraine at that point will either sign a free-trade agreement with the EU or not. If it signs, Kiev is on a path that might one day bring it into the EU but will in any case keep it out of Mr. Putin's Eurasia.
The sticking point is Ms. Tymoshenko. The EU, and especially the Germans, believe that her trial was politicized, and they want her freed. This is more than a question about the fate of one person. The fate of Ms. Tymoshenko is being taken as a sign of whether Ukraine's government is prepared to accept the judicial and political standards of the EU.
As Ukraine moves toward its decision, there is frantic maneuvering on all sides. The EU is sweetening its offer by suggesting that Ukraine could begin to enjoy the benefits of a trade deal even before all EU member states have ratified it. It is proposing to help Ukraine with its gas supply if an angry Russia retaliates by shutting the pipelines yet again. And it is pushing the International Monetary Fund to offer Ukraine $10 billion to $15 billion of standby financial support in the event of Russian pressure.
Russia has characteristically responded with a diplomacy of threats: Ukrainian exports to Russia have been mysteriously held up at the frontier and Russian officials from Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on down have warned Ukraine of serious consequences should it side with the EU. Meanwhile, in its continuing efforts to reduce its energy dependence on Russia, Ukraine has signed a $10 billion shale gas deal with Chevron CVX +0.42% —news that cannot have brought much joy to Gazprom. OGZPY +0.95%
It is not clear what President Yanukovych will do. Releasing Ms. Tymoshenko would be a bitter pill, and Ukraine may decide that Europe's price is too high. But the Putin regime has so threatened Ukraine that even some of Russia's natural allies in the country are looking west.
And there is one more question. Losing the chance to reel in Ukraine will be the greatest blow to Mr. Putin's prestige since he emerged on the Russian political stage. As the hour of decision approaches, what if anything will he try in a last-ditch effort to delay Russia's permanent relegation to a secondary role in global power politics?
President Yanukovych and his allies want to stoke a bidding war between the EU and Russia for Ukrainian support. The stakes, for Mr. Putin especially, could not be higher.
Mr. Mead is the James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College and editor-at-large of the American Interest.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Kessler: Where investor dollars often go to die
on: November 17, 2013, 08:39:22 AM
Andy Kessler: Private Startups, Where Investor Dollars Often Go to Die
Now anyone can join the crowd to fund startups—but most are crapshoots. Trust me, I know.
Updated Nov. 15, 2013 6:57 p.m. ET
When President Obama signed the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act in April 2012, he hailed it as "exactly the kind of bipartisan action we should be taking in Washington to help our economy." Well, maybe.
Some JOBS Act provisions kicked in right away. "Emerging growth companies"—those with under $1 billion in revenues—are exempt from many reporting provisions of Sarbannes-Oxley. And so Twitter, TWTR -1.59% for example, only had to show two years of audited results (instead of three) in its IPO filing. And private companies can now have 2,000 investors, up from 500, before they have to file annual reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Less information is never better.
The SEC, however, waited almost a year and a half to implement a general solicitation rule allowing companies as well as private equity and hedge funds to advertise to a mass audience during their fundraising—though individual investors still need to be accredited, meaning $1 million or more in net worth or $200,000 in individual income. Of course, no self-respecting hedge fund or private-equity firm will advertise, for the same reason law firms Skadden Arps or Wachtell Lipton don't damage their brand running TV ads like personal injury lawyers Schlock and Skeeve.
In October, the SEC finally put out a "crowdfunding" rule that allows anyone to "angel" invest in startups. Sort of. There are annual caps of 5% for those making under $100,000 a year and 10% for those non-accredited making over $100,000. This is government paternalism trying to limit your downside. Yet there already are investing platforms like RockThePost and AngelList that hopefully weed out most fraud. In any event, government should not be telling people how to, or if they can, invest.
But just because you can invest doesn't mean you should. The crowdfunding rule is now out for public comment. Here's mine: Once you're allowed to invest in private startups, my advice is: don't. Success is much harder than you might think.
First off, the field is crowded. Lots of incubators like Y Combinator (550 investments since 2005) and 500 Startups (600 since 2010 and raising a fund to do 200 a year) have funded startups doing just about everything. Critics call this "spray and pray." Over the years, I've given talks for groups of angels, in Silicon Valley, Boston and New York City. These events are usually fun cocktail parties, lots of former CEOs and captains of industry just dying to drop 50 grand into the next big thing. But at the end of the day, they are really just paying up for future cocktail party conversation: "I'm funding Clean Green, an app that delivers car washers to your driveway. I'm investing in SpeedMetal, a cloud-based service to interpret heavy-metal lyrics."
And returns are rare. The old rule of thumb for venture capitalists is that out of 10 investments, one will be a home run, a few will show some returns, and the rest will fail, return a goose egg, or my favorite saying, end up as a smoking hole in the ground. In reality, venture capitalists turn down 99% of the entrepreneurs who lob in ideas let alone those lucky enough to get a meeting, and these are the professionals. A recent study by Cowboy Ventures looked at the estimated 60,000 consumer and enterprise software startups funded over the last 10 years and found just 39—a measly .07%—valued at over $1 billion. Many like Snapchat and Pinterest are still private.
Whenever I'm pitched a private investment (I usually get out of meetings by claiming I have the flu) they all sound great. Up and to the right. Grand slams. Then I go back to my office and pull out a thick manila folder I keep in my desk. It's filled with certificates. The investments that work and go public require you to send in the certificates in exchange for tradable shares in your account. The ones that are left are dead companies, or walking dead. Optical switches, podcasts, grid optimization, bendable solar cells, silicon factories, I've got them all. Holes in the ground.
Everyone should have the right to make great investments and profit, or lose. Sure, investing in some world-changing app is probably better than investing in your brother-in-law's pizza joint. But not by much, and you won't get a free calzone. Maybe it's the next Twitter . . . but more likely, it's just a dusty certificate. Best to wait until most other angels have given up.
Mr. Kessler, a former hedge-fund manager, is the author most recently of "Eat People" (Portfolio, 2011).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: WI Political Speech Raid
on: November 17, 2013, 08:36:45 AM
Wisconsin Political Speech Raid
Subpoenas hit allies of Scott Walker as his re-election campaign looms.
Updated Nov. 15, 2013 6:53 p.m. ET
Americans learned in the IRS political targeting scandal that government enforcement power can be used to stifle political speech. Something similar may be unfolding in Wisconsin, where a special prosecutor is targeting conservative groups that participated in the battle over Governor Scott Walker's union reforms.
In recent weeks, special prosecutor Francis Schmitz has hit dozens of conservative groups with subpoenas demanding documents related to the 2011 and 2012 campaigns to recall Governor Walker and state legislative leaders.
Copies of two subpoenas we've seen demand "all memoranda, email . . . correspondence, and communications" both internally and between the subpoena target and some 29 conservative groups, including Wisconsin and national nonprofits, political vendors and party committees. The groups include the League of American Voters, Wisconsin Family Action, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, Americans for Prosperity—Wisconsin, American Crossroads, the Republican Governors Association, Friends of Scott Walker and the Republican Party of Wisconsin.
One subpoena also demands "all records of income received, including fundraising information and the identity of persons contributing to the corporation." In other words, tell us who your donors are.
The probe began in the office of Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf, though no one will publicly claim credit for appointing Mr. Schmitz, the special prosecutor. The investigation is taking place under Wisconsin's John Doe law, which bars a subpoena's targets from disclosing its contents to anyone but his attorneys. John Doe probes work much like a grand jury, allowing prosecutors to issue subpoenas and conduct searches, while the gag orders leave the targets facing the resources of the state with no way to publicly defend themselves.
That makes it hard to confirm any details. But one target who did confirm receiving a subpoena is Eric O'Keefe, who realizes the personal risk but wants the public to know what is going on. Mr. O'Keefe is director of the Wisconsin Club for Growth, which advocates lower taxes, limited government and other conservative priorities. He has worked in political and policy circles for three decades, including stints as national director of the Libertarian Party in 1980 and a director of the Cato Institute, and he helped to found the Center for Competitive Politics, which focuses on protecting political speech.
Mr. O'Keefe says he received his subpoena in early October. He adds that at least three of the targets had their homes raided at dawn, with law-enforcement officers turning over belongings to seize computers and files.
Mr. O'Keefe and other sources say they don't know the genesis of the probe, and Mr. Schmitz declined comment. The first public reference appeared in an October 21 blog post by Daniel Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Mr. Bice is well known for his Democratic sources.
The kitchen-sink subpoenas deserve skepticism considering their subject and targets. The disclosure of conservative political donors has become a preoccupation of the political left across the country. In the heat of the fight over Governor Walker's reforms, unions urged boycotts of Walker contributors and DemocraticUnderground.com published a list of Walker donors for boycotting.
The subpoena demand for the names of donors to nonprofit groups that aren't legally required to disclose them is especially troubling. Readers may recall that the Cincinnati office of the IRS sent the tax-exempt applications of several conservative groups to the ProPublica news website in 2012.
The subpoenas don't spell out a specific allegation, but the demands suggest the government may be pursuing a theory of illegal campaign coordination by independent groups during the recall elections. If prosecutors are pursuing a theory that independent conservative groups coordinated with candidate campaigns during the recall, their goal may be to transform the independent expenditures into candidate committees after the fact, requiring revision of campaign-finance disclosures and possible criminal charges.
Another reason for skepticism is the probe's timing as Mr. Walker's 2014 re-election campaign looms. This is the second such investigation against Mr. Walker in three and a half years, following one that began in the office of Milwaukee County Democratic District Attorney John Chisholm in spring 2010.
That probe examined whether staffers used government offices for political purposes while Mr. Walker was Milwaukee County Executive, but after three years turned up nothing on Mr. Walker and embarrassingly little else. The final charges included a case of an aide sending campaign emails on county time, two Walker aides stealing money, and charges of child enticement against the domestic partner of a former staffer.
Mr. Walker's Democratic recall opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, nonetheless used the probe against the Governor, saying in a debate that "I have a police department that arrests felons, he has a practice of hiring them." So it's notable that the new batch of subpoenas began flying just days before Democrat Mary Burke announced her candidacy for Governor. District Attorneys are partisan elected officials in Wisconsin, and Mr. Landgraf works for Mr. Chisholm. Neither of them returned our call for comment.
The investigation's focus on campaign-finance law also falls into the wheelhouse of the Government Accountability Board, Wisconsin's political speech regulator. The GAB, which is made up of retired judges appointed by the Governor, has a history of pushing aggressive regulations of issue advertising. Mr. O'Keefe's Wisconsin Club for Growth has fought in court with the GAB over regulating political speech.
A person who has seen one of the Wisconsin search warrants tells us that the warrants were executed based on the request of Dean Nickel, who filed an affidavit for probable cause. Mr. Nickel is a former head of the Wisconsin Department of Justice Public Integrity Unit and has worked as an investigator for the GAB. Mr. Nickel told us he is a contractor for the GAB but wouldn't discuss the John Doe probe. GAB Director and General Counsel Kevin Kennedy declined to comment.
Perhaps the probe will turn up some nefarious activity that warrants this subpoena monsoon and home raids. But in the meantime the effect is to limit political speech by intimidating these groups from participating in the 2014 campaign. Stifling allies of Mr. Walker would be an enormous in-kind contribution to Democrats. Even if no charges are filed, the subpoenas will have served as a form of speech suppression.
Mr. O'Keefe told us that the flurry of subpoenas "froze my communications and frightened many allies and vendors of the pro-taxpayer political movement in Wisconsin and across the country." Even if no one is ever convicted of a crime, he says, "the process is the punishment."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Russia warily eyes a US-Iran deal
on: November 17, 2013, 08:23:16 AM
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Russia Warily Eyes a U.S.-Iran Deal
November 14, 2013 | 0528 Print Text Size
Russia Warily Eyes a U.S.-Iran Deal
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Oct. 7. (SONNY TUMBELAKA/AFP/Getty Images)
Russia is concerned that a U.S.-Iranian accord could alter the regional balance of power at Moscow's expense. Even before the possible entente, the Kremlin was worried that the U.S. military withdrawal from much of the Islamic world would give the United States more freedom of action elsewhere. An agreement with Iran could undermine Moscow's influence in the Middle East and open the door to U.S.-Iranian cooperation along Russia's southern borderlands. Like many other global and regional players with a stake in the outcome of the talks, Russia will have to contemplate a world in which Iran and the United States are not at odds.
Over the past two decades, Russia has been one of Iran's primary supporters at a time when Tehran was relatively isolated in the international community and had hostile relations with many Western powers. However, Moscow and Tehran never shared any particular affinity. In fact, Russia and Iran have historically competed for influence in Turkey, the Caucasus and Central Asia. During the imperial periods, Persia and Russia fought several large wars from 1722 to 1828. While the Soviet Union was the first state to recognize the Islamic republic in 1979, relations between the two were cool, in part because Tehran condemned Moscow's restrictions on religion and the Soviets were already allied with Iraq.
Russia and Iran: Competing Spheres of Influence
Following the fall of the Soviet Union, relations between Tehran and Moscow began to warm while Iran's international isolation was growing. Russia committed to take over construction of Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant and became a source of military hardware for Iran. Russia has also provided Iran with intelligence on a range of matters, including Israeli networks in Lebanon and U.S. and British plans to destabilize the Iranian government by, for example, taking advantage of the 2009 "Green Revolution" protests.
For much of the 2000s, U.S. attention (military and otherwise) was focused on the Islamic world, from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the standoff with Iran. Moscow took advantage of Washington's preoccupation to start rolling back Western influence in Russia's borderlands. In addition, Russia could leverage its ties with Iran in negotiations with Washington on other matters, such as U.S. support for anti-Russian governments in Ukraine and Georgia. The relationship with Iran was also a way for Russia to secure its southern flank and limit Iranian-Russian competition in the region.
George Friedman and Robert D. Kaplan on U.S.-Iran Relations
Indeed, Moscow has found the standoff between Iran and the United States to be a particularly useful foreign policy tool. For example, during Moscow's negotiations with Washington over U.S. missile defense installations in Central Europe, Russia threatened to counter by selling S-300 missile defense systems to Iran. But Russia has been careful not to support Iran too much, both because a strengthened Iran would threaten Russia's southern flank and because it could provoke the United States and its allies into taking action against Moscow.
From Leverage to Liability
Russia is comfortable and familiar with partnering with a U.S. foe, though in the past such relationships have not proved durable. During the Cold War, Moscow assumed that the United States and China would remain adversaries because there were too many constraints on either side to ever reach a compromise. Following the Sino-American entente in 1971, the United States became a swing player in Sino-Soviet relations, and China became the same in Soviet-American relations. A similar phenomenon is now taking place with Iran. Russia knows that any agreement between Iran and the United States does not mean the two will become allies, and a change would not necessarily affect Russia immediately. But Russia's leaders past and present have had to be long-term strategists, and the Kremlin is weighing the ramifications of an U.S.-Iran entente well into the future.
First, should there be a true rapprochement with Iran, it could free Washington to focus more on other parts of the world. Moscow is worried that Washington would expand its attention both in Russia's periphery, where it has been attempting to boost its influence, and inside Russia itself, where the United States has actively supported anti-Kremlin groups. Russia would not be able to use Iran to counter any U.S. activities against Moscow's interests, and it has little else that is comparably effective in negotiations with Washington.
The second concern is how much the U.S.-Iranian relationship warms in the long term. Iran alone cannot threaten Russia in the region, since the Islamic republic is much smaller economically and militarily. However, U.S. backing could allow Iran to weaken Russia's regional position. Moscow cannot be certain that improved U.S.-Iranian ties would not eventually lead to increased military cooperation and support similar to Washington's relationship with Tehran in the decades before Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979.
Moscow's Areas of Concern
A U.S.-backed Iran increases the vulnerability of Russia's southern flank. Specifically, there are three regions that Russia is concerned could once again fall away from its influence: Turkey, the Caucasus and Central Asia. Namely, Iran has the potential to be a regional energy competitor to Russia, and it can act as a land bridge for Eurasian transit through the Russian borderlands to the Persian Gulf.
Turkey is Russia's second-largest energy consumer, as well as another regional rival to Moscow's influence in its borderlands. Ankara has been looking for alternative suppliers for energy in order to reduce its dependence on Russia. Though there are minor alternatives such as Azerbaijan, Iran has the potential to seriously compete with Russia on the energy production front. Iran is already a minor energy exporter to Turkey, but with increased foreign investment and support in Iran's energy sector -- particularly from U.S. firms -- the country could increase its production on a scale that might challenge Russian energy dominance in the region. In addition, the historical geopolitical competition that saw Russia spar with Ottoman Turkey and Persian Iran -- with the countries alternately aligning with and against one another -- could resume.
The second region where Russia's sway could be undermined is the Caucasus, where Russia relatively successfully increased its influence this year. Currently, Armenia is isolated and reliant on its relationship with Russia in nearly every respect. Georgia has ushered in a government that is more cooperative with Russia, and Russian troops are still stationed in the country's breakaway territories. Azerbaijan has become more accommodating to Russian interests to avoid isolation as the rest of the region moves closer to Moscow. Russia will want to solidify its position in the Caucasus in the short term in case Iran (possibly with U.S. backing) attempts to undermine Russia's position. For example, Iran could offer Azerbaijan an alternative land route for transporting energy to Turkey and Europe or the Persian Gulf. Iran could also boost trade and energy exports to Armenia or Georgia, challenging Russian influence there.
Lastly, Moscow's grip on Central Asia -- a region already seeing increased Sino-Russian competition -- could be jeopardized. The current struggle between Moscow and Beijing has centered on the flow of energy out of Central Asia. Russia has strengthened its control over the pipelines that run between Turkmenistan and China through Kazakhstan. However, Turkmenistan's largest natural gas fields are on the border with Iran, making Iran an option for increasing Turkmen energy exports to the Persian Gulf or the West. Iran could become a transit corridor for Kazakh and Uzbek energy as well. For Central Asian states concerned about possible instability in Afghanistan, Iran could also prove to be a useful security partner on intelligence or even military cooperation in the wake of the U.S. military withdrawal.
The Kremlin understands these vulnerabilities, but it also sees that there is little it can do to interrupt the trajectory of U.S.-Iran negotiations. Instead, Russia has to be thinking of how to protect its position in a changing world. If Iran is no longer an option, finding a new tool to counter U.S. actions and shoring up the southern borderlands will be at the top of Moscow's list of priorities.
Read more: Russia Warily Eyes a U.S.-Iran Deal | Stratfor
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Setenced to a slow death
on: November 17, 2013, 08:15:00 AM
Although this comes from Pravda on the Hudson, which as always entails the risk of less than candid shading of the data, I confess to considerable sympathy for the point being made.
Sentenced to a Slow Death
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD
Published: November 16, 2013
If this were happening in any other country, Americans would be aghast. A sentence of life in prison, without the possibility of parole, for trying to sell $10 of marijuana to an undercover officer? For sharing LSD at a Grateful Dead concert? For siphoning gas from a truck? The punishment is so extreme, so irrational, so wildly disproportionate to the crime that it defies explanation.
And yet this is happening every day in federal and state courts across the United States. Judges, bound by mandatory sentencing laws that they openly denounce, are sending people away for the rest of their lives for committing nonviolent drug and property crimes. In nearly 20 percent of cases, it was the person’s first offense. (!!!)
As of 2012, there were 3,278 prisoners serving sentences of life without parole for such crimes, according to an extensive and astonishing report issued Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union. And that number is conservative. It doesn’t include inmates serving sentences of, say, 350 years for a series of nonviolent drug sales. Nor does it include those in prison for crimes legally classified as “violent” even though they did not involve actual violence, like failing to report to a halfway house or trying to steal an unoccupied car.
The report relies on data from the federal prison system and nine states. Four out of five prisoners were sentenced for drug crimes like possessing a crack pipe or acting as a go-between in a street drug sale. Most of the rest were sentenced for property crimes like trying to cash a stolen check or shoplifting. In more than 83 percent of the cases, the judge had no choice: federal or state law mandated a sentence of life without parole, usually under a mandatory-minimum or habitual offender statute.
Over the past four decades, those laws have helped push the American prison population to more than two million people, and to the highest incarceration rate in the world. As in the rest of the penal system, the racial disparity is vast: in the federal courts, blacks are 20 times more likely than whites to be sentenced to life without parole for nonviolent crimes.
The report estimates that the cost of imprisoning just these 3,278 people for life instead of a more proportionate length of time is $1.78 billion.
It is difficult to find anyone who defends such sentencing. Even Burl Cain, the longtime warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary, which holds the most nonviolent lifers in the country, calls these sentences “ridiculous.” “Everybody forgets what corrections means. It means to correct deviant behavior,” Mr. Cain told the A.C.L.U. “If this person can go back and be a productive citizen and not commit crimes again,” he asked, why spend the money to keep him in prison? “I need to keep predators in these big old prisons, not dying old men.”
Several states are reforming sentencing laws to curb the mass incarceration binge. And Congress is considering at least two bipartisan bills that would partly restore to judges the power to issue appropriate sentences, unbound by mandatory minimums. These are positive steps, but they do not go far enough. As the report recommends, federal and state legislators should ban sentences of life without parole for nonviolent crimes, both for those already serving these sentences and in future cases. President Obama and state governors should also use executive clemency to commute existing sentences.
Just one-fifth of all countries allow a sentence of life without parole, and most of those reserve it for murder or repeated violent crimes. If the United States is to call itself a civilized nation, it must end this cruel and ineffective practice.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: The long term unemployed
on: November 17, 2013, 08:09:27 AM
On a cold October morning, just after the federal government shutdown came to an end, Jenner Barrington-Ward headed into court in Boston to declare bankruptcy.
It took weeks to put the paperwork together, given that her papers and belongings were scattered across the country — there was a broken-down car and boxes of paperwork in Virginia Beach, clothes in Colorado and personal possessions at a friend’s house in Somerville, Mass. She managed to estimate her income — maybe $5,000 last year, but maybe half that this year — from odd jobs. Soon, she would officially have nothing.
It has been a painful slide. A five-year spell of unemployment has slowly scrubbed away nearly every vestige of Ms. Barrington-Ward’s middle-class life. She is a 53-year-old college graduate who worked steadily for three decades. She is now broke and homeless.
Ms. Barrington-Ward describes it as “my journey through hell.” She was laid off from an administrative position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2008; she had earned about $50,000 that year. With the recession spurring employers to dump hundreds of thousands of workers a month and the unemployment rate climbing to the double digits, she found that no matter the number of résumés she sent out — she stopped counting in the thousands — she could not find work.
“I’ve been turned down from McDonald’s because I was told I was too articulate,” she says. “I got denied a job scrubbing toilets because I didn’t speak Spanish and turned away from a laundromat because I was ‘too pretty.’ I’ve also been told point-blank to my face, ‘We don’t hire the unemployed.’ And the two times I got real interest from a prospective employer, the credit check ended it immediately.”
For Ms. Barrington-Ward, joblessness itself has become a trap, an impediment to finding a job. Economists see it the same way, concerned that joblessness lasting more than six months is a major factor preventing people from getting rehired, with potentially grave consequences for tens of millions of Americans.
The long-term jobless, after all, tend to be in poorer health, and to have higher rates of suicide and strained family relations. Even the children of the long-term unemployed see lower earnings down the road.
The consequences are grave for the country, too: lost production, increased social spending, decreased tax revenue and slower growth. Policy makers and academics are now asking whether an improving economy might absorb those workers in time to prevent long-term economic damage.
“I don’t think we know the answer,” said Jesse Rothstein, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley. “But right now, I think everybody’s worst fears are coming true, as far as we can tell.”
Soon after we first talked in October, Ms. Barrington-Ward left her sister’s house in Ohio, where she had crashed for six weeks, and went back to Boston and filed her bankruptcy paperwork. She contacted a headhunter. “I’ve got to get a job,” she said. “I just have to.” She had two job interviews lined up and her fingers crossed.
Long-term joblessness — the kind that Ms. Barrington-Ward and about four million others are experiencing — is now one of the defining realities of the American work force.
The unemployment rate has fallen to 7.3 percent, down from 10 percent four years ago. Private businesses have added about 7.6 million positions over the same period. But while recent numbers show that there are about as many people unemployed for short periods as in 2007 — before the crisis hit — they also show that long-term joblessness is up 213 percent.
In part, that’s because people don’t return to work in an orderly, first-fired, first-hired fashion. In any given month, a newly jobless worker has about a 20 to 30 percent chance of finding a new job. By the time he or she has been out of work for six months, though, the chance drops to one in 10, according to research by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
Facing those kinds of odds, some of the long-term jobless have simply given up and dropped out of the labor force. So while official figures show that the number of long-term jobless has fallen steeply from its recessionary high of 6.7 million, many researchers fear that this number could mean as much bad news as good. Workers over 50 may be biding their time until they can start receiving Social Security. Younger workers may be going to school to avoid a tough job market. Others may be going on disability, helping to explain that program’s surging rolls.
Stan Hampton, 59, a veteran of the Iraq war, is now earning his associate degree. But he has not had a job since returning from active duty in 2007, and is now living in an apartment complex for veterans near Las Vegas.
“I’m just trying to hang on until my retirement kicks in,” he said, though he stressed that he would still look for a job. “I have not been in jail or prison, nor am I an alcoholic, drug addict or gambling addict. I am simply old, unemployed and out of money.”
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To answer the question of whether the improving economy might help people like Mr. Hampton and Ms. Barrington-Ward, economists often phrase the question as “Is it structural or cyclical?” Cyclical unemployment is temporary, caused by a slack economy. Structural unemployment stems from a mismatch between what businesses want and what workers offer. You are a car mechanic, for example, but the economy needs programmers.
If long-term joblessness is cyclical, a growing economy should bring people back into the job market. But if structural factors are at play, the concern is dire for the whole economy, with a normal unemployment rate “significantly higher than what has been achieved in the past,” said Janet L. Yellen, the presumptive new Federal Reserve chairwoman, in a speech this year.
Right now, most economists argue that unemployment remains primarily cyclical. Ben S. Bernanke, the departing Fed chairman, made this point last summer, adding that an unemployment rate in the 5 percent range — an indication of a healthy economy — was still obtainable. Growth simply hasn’t proved strong enough to spur businesses to hire all the people who want jobs.
Economists come to this conclusion in part because there is no evidence that the long-term jobless are accumulating in any one industry, which would be a signal that the economy needs to move workers from, say, manufacturing into nursing. Long-term unemployment has hit workers young and old, of all industries, races and backgrounds. But the long-term jobless actually tend to be more educated. And long spells of joblessness have hit black workers especially hard, as well as single parents, the disabled and older workers.
With time, however, even people with desired skills can become “structurally” unemployed. Longer spells of unemployment become harder to explain away. Jobless workers’ skills can atrophy. Job seekers find it harder to appear eager. Wounds become scars.
After she lost her job, Ms. Barrington-Ward lived off her 99 weeks of unemployment benefits. Two years ago, she had to give up the house she shared with friends outside Boston. She cannot get Medicaid because she does not have a fixed address. She has no car to get around. She does freelance “intuitive” readings, similar to psychic readings, and web production work. A jobless friend committed suicide.
She tries not to let those strains show, but she describes the experience as wearying. “After working since I was 15, I have nothing to show for it,” she said.
“She’s brilliant,” said Allyson Hartzell, a longtime friend with whom Ms. Barrington-Ward is currently staying. “She gets up in the morning. She has her tasks. She’s always working on her personal projects, trying to generate money. She goes to job interviews. She keeps herself in shape.”
Ms. Hartzell continued: “I think it’s emotionally difficult to handle so much rejection, and I think others sometimes feel she needs to justify why she’s in the position she’s in.”
Economists have long thought that the strain of unemployment, plus the erosion of skills and loss of contacts that naturally occur, helps explain the “structural” unemployed in a nation’s work force. But new evidence shows that bias plays a much larger role than previously thought. Some of the long-term unemployed might never find work because businesses simply refuse to hire them.
In a recent study, Rand Ghayad a Ph.D. candidate at Northeastern University, sent out 4,800 dummy résumés to job postings. Those résumés that were supposedly from recently unemployed applicants with no relevant experience were more likely to elicit a call for an interview than those supposedly from experienced workers out of a job for more than six months. Indeed, the callback rate for the long-term jobless ranged from just 1 to 3 percent, versus 9 to 16 percent for newly unemployed workers.
Unemployment becomes a “sorting criterion,” in the words of a separate study with similar findings. It found that being out of a job for more than nine months decreased interview requests by 20 percent among people applying to low- or medium-skilled jobs.
In dozens of interviews, the long-term unemployed described discrimination as being foremost in their minds, though at the same time they said the experience of joblessness had changed them.
Robin Hastey, 53, who lives in Cornwall, N.Y., lost her job in 2009 and has not found steady work since. Her husband went through a spell of unemployment, but eventually found a job that paid half of what he made in the 1990s. They are deeply in debt, she said, estimating that they have about $100 in their bank account.
We look older,” she said. “I’m not as cute. People aren’t as forgiving. When I was young, you could ask stupid questions and people would hire you anyhow. Now, you’re just a crazy old lady. There’s a lot less forgiveness in the marketplace.”
Still, the slack economy remains the primary culprit behind all the pain in the labor market, economists say. “We’ve got to be doing everything we can,” said Professor Rothstein at Berkeley. “That means direct hiring”— with the government providing jobs — “employment tax credits, just about anything you could think of.”
But the government is now doing the opposite. The mandatory federal budget cuts known as sequestration took as much as 60 percent out of unemployment checks this summer and fall. And, as of this winter, the federal emergency program that extends the maximum number of weeks of jobless payments will end, though the White House is pushing to extend it again.
Some fear that it may already be too late to prevent long-term joblessness from permanently scarring the American work force and broader economy. International Monetary Fund researchers estimate that the level of structural unemployment has increased significantly since the recession. And striking new Federal Reserve research shows that the scars from the recession have knocked the economy off its long-term growth trend.
For the long-term jobless, there is little to do but hope and wait. When I visited Ms. Barrington-Ward in November, she was planning to produce a show for Somerville Community Access Television. Unemployment itself consumes a lot of time. “I’ve been in seven states over the last five years, living with friends and family,” she said. “I usually stay somewhere for three weeks maximum. People want me to leave but don’t want to ask me to leave.”
She never got a second interview for one of the two positions for which she applied. She wrote a detailed plan for and had phone conversations about the other job, this one at a web start-up. She offered to work on a consulting basis. The company told her that it would go with a temp.
On a cold evening in Somerville, she sipped a mocha she had bought with a coupon. She had not given up — not quite. But she was disappointed that jobs hadn’t panned out. Again.
“I just know I’m not going to get another full-time job again,” she said. “It’s just so hard.” She had to leave her friend’s house soon. She did not know where she would go.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH Vaginas at Foggy Bottom bending over for Russians
on: November 17, 2013, 07:54:12 AM
WASHINGTON — In the view of America’s spy services, the next potential threat from Russia may not come from a nefarious cyberweapon or secrets gleaned from the files of Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor now in Moscow.
Instead, this menace may come in the form of a seemingly innocuous dome-topped antenna perched atop an electronics-packed building surrounded by a security fence somewhere in the United States.
In recent months, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon have been quietly waging a campaign to stop the State Department from allowing Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, to build about half a dozen of these structures, known as monitor stations, on United States soil, several American officials said. They fear that these structures could help Russia spy on the United States and improve the precision of Russian weaponry, the officials said. These monitor stations, the Russians contend, would significantly improve the accuracy and reliability of Moscow’s version of the Global Positioning System, the American satellite network that steers guided missiles to their targets and thirsty smartphone users to the nearest Starbucks.
“They don’t want to be reliant on the American system and believe that their systems, like GPS, will spawn other industries and applications,” said a former senior official in the State Department’s Office of Space and Advanced Technology. “They feel as though they are losing a technological edge to us in an important market. Look at everything GPS has done on things like your phone and the movement of planes and ships.”
The Russian effort is part of a larger global race by several countries — including China and European Union nations — to perfect their own global positioning systems and challenge the dominance of the American GPS.
For the State Department, permitting Russia to build the stations would help mend the Obama administration’s relationship with the government of President Vladimir V. Putin, now at a nadir because of Moscow’s granting asylum to Mr. Snowden and its backing of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. (WHAT THE FCUK?!?!?!?!?)
But the C.I.A. and other American spy agencies, as well as the Pentagon, suspect that the monitor stations would give the Russians a foothold on American territory that would sharpen the accuracy of Moscow’s satellite-steered weapons. The stations, they believe, could also give the Russians an opening to snoop on the United States within its borders. The squabble is serious enough that administration officials have delayed a final decision until the Russians provide more information and until the American agencies sort out their differences, State Department and White House officials said.
Russia’s efforts have also stirred concerns on Capitol Hill, where members of the intelligence and armed services committees view Moscow’s global positioning network — known as Glonass, for Global Navigation Satellite System — with deep suspicion and are demanding answers from the administration.
“I would like to understand why the United States would be interested in enabling a GPS competitor, like Russian Glonass, when the world’s reliance on GPS is a clear advantage to the United States on multiple levels,” said Representative Mike D. Rogers, Republican of Alabama, the chairman of a House Armed Services subcommittee.
Mr. Rogers last week asked the Pentagon to provide an assessment of the proposal’s impact on national security. The request was made in a letter sent to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Secretary of State John Kerry and the director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr.
The monitor stations have been a high priority of Mr. Putin for several years as a means to improve Glonass not only to benefit the Russian military and civilian sectors but also to compete globally with GPS.
Earlier this year, Russia positioned a station in Brazil, and agreements with Spain, Indonesia and Australia are expected soon, according to Russian news reports. The United States has stations around the world, but none in Russia.
Russian and American negotiators last met on April 25 to weigh “general requirements for possible Glonass monitoring stations in U.S. territory and the scope of planned future discussions,” said a State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf, who said no final decision had been made.
Ms. Harf and other administration officials declined to provide additional information. The C.I.A. declined to comment.
The Russian government offered few details about the program. In a statement, a spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Washington, Yevgeniy Khorishko, said that the stations were deployed “only to ensure calibration and precision of signals for the Glonass system.” Mr. Khorishko referred all questions to Roscosmos, which did not respond to a request for comment last week.
Although the Cold War is long over, the Russians do not want to rely on the American GPS infrastructure because they remain suspicious of the United States’ military capabilities, security analysts say. That is why they have insisted on pressing ahead with their own system despite the high costs.
Accepting the dominance of GPS, Russians fear, would give the United States some serious strategic advantages militarily. In Russians’ worst fears, analysts said, Americans could potentially manipulate signals and send erroneous information to Russian armed forces.
Monitor stations are essential to maintaining the accuracy of a global positioning system, according to Bradford W. Parkinson, a professor emeritus of aeronautics and astronautics at Stanford University, who was the original chief architect of GPS. As a satellite’s orbit slowly diverges from its earlier prediction, these small deviations are measured by the reference stations on the ground and sent to a central control station for updating, he said. That prediction is sent to the satellite every 12 hours for subsequent broadcast to users. Having monitor stations all around the earth yields improved accuracy over having them only in one hemisphere.
Washington and Moscow have been discussing for nearly a decade how and when to cooperate on civilian satellite-based navigation signals, particularly to ensure that the systems do not interfere with each other. Indeed, many smartphones and other consumer navigation systems sold in the United States today use data from both countries’ satellites.
In May 2012, Moscow requested that the United States allow the ground-monitoring stations on American soil. American technical and diplomatic officials have met several times to discuss the issue and have asked Russian officials for more information, said Ms. Harf, the State Department spokeswoman. In the meantime, C.I.A. analysts reviewed the proposal and concluded in a classified report this fall that allowing the Russian monitor stations here would raise counterintelligence and other security issues.
The State Department does not think that is a strong argument, said an administration official. “It doesn’t see them as a threat.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / lots more
on: November 17, 2013, 12:57:46 AM
Why the Government Should Help Leakers
In the Information Age, it's easier than ever to steal and publish data.
Corporations and governments have to adjust to their secrets being
When massive amounts of government documents are leaked, journalists
sift through them to determine which pieces of information are
newsworthy, and confer with government agencies over what needs to be
Managing this reality is going to require that governments actively
engage with members of the press who receive leaked secrets, helping
them secure those secrets -- even while being unable to prevent them
from publishing. It might seem abhorrent to help those who are seeking
to bring your secrets to light, but it's the best way to ensure that the
things that truly need to be secret remain secret, even as everything
else becomes public.
The WikiLeaks cables serve as an excellent example of how a government
should not deal with massive leaks of classified information.
WikiLeaks has said it asked US authorities for help in determining what
should be redacted before publication of documents, although some
government officials have challenged that statement. WikiLeaks' media
partners did redact many documents, but eventually all 250,000
unredacted cables were released to the world as a result of a mistake.
The damage was nowhere near as serious as government officials initially
claimed, but it had been avoidable.
Fast-forward to today, and we have an even bigger trove of classified
documents. What Edward Snowden took -- "exfiltrated" is the National
Security Agency term -- dwarfs the State Department cables, and contains
considerably more important secrets. But again, the US government is
doing nothing to prevent a massive data dump.
The government engages with the press on individual stories. The
"Guardian," the "Washington Post," and the "New York Times" are all
redacting the original Snowden documents based on discussions with the
government. This isn't new. The US press regularly consults with the
government before publishing something that might be damaging. In 2006,
the "New York Times" consulted with both the NSA and the Bush
administration before publishing Mark Klein's whistleblowing about the
NSA's eavesdropping on AT&T trunk circuits. In all these cases, the goal
is to minimize actual harm to US security while ensuring the press can
still report stories in the public interest, even if the government
doesn't want it to.
In today's world of reduced secrecy, whistleblowing as civil
disobedience, and massive document exfiltrations, negotiations over
individual stories aren't enough. The government needs to develop a
protocol to actively help news organizations expose their secrets safely
Here's what should have happened as soon as Snowden's whistleblowing
became public. The government should have told the reporters and
publications with the classified documents something like this: "OK, you
have them. We know that we can't undo the leak. But please let us help.
Let us help you secure the documents as you write your stories, and
securely dispose of the documents when you're done."
The people who have access to the Snowden documents say they don't want
them to be made public in their raw form or to get in the hands of rival
governments. But accidents happen, and reporters are not trained in
military secrecy practices.
Copies of some of the Snowden documents are being circulated to
journalists and others. With each copy, each person, each day, there's a
greater chance that, once again, someone will make a mistake and some --
or all -- of the raw documents will appear on the Internet. A formal
system of working with whistleblowers could prevent that.
I'm sure the suggestion sounds odious to a government that is actively
engaging in a war on whistleblowers, and that views Snowden as a
criminal and the reporters writing these stories as "helping the
terrorists." But it makes sense. Harvard law professor Jonathan Zittrain
compares this to plea bargaining.
The police regularly negotiate lenient sentences or probation for
confessed criminals in order to convict more important criminals. They
make deals with all sorts of unsavory people, giving them benefits they
don't deserve, because the result is a greater good.
In the Snowden case, an agreement would safeguard the most important of
NSA's secrets from other nations' intelligence agencies. It would help
ensure that the truly secret information not be exposed. It would
protect US interests.
Why would reporters agree to this? Two reasons. One, they actually do
want these documents secured while they look for stories to publish. And
two, it would be a public demonstration of that desire.
Why wouldn't the government just collect all the documents under the
pretense of securing them and then delete them? For the same reason they
don't renege on plea bargains: No one would trust them next time. And,
of course, because smart reporters will probably keep encrypted backups
under their own control.
We're nowhere near the point where this system could be put into
practice, but it's worth thinking about how it could work. The
government would need to establish a semi-independent group, called,
say, a Leak Management unit, which could act as an intermediary. Since
it would be isolated from the agencies that were the source of the leak,
its officials would be less vested and -- this is important -- less
angry over the leak. Over time, it would build a reputation, develop
protocols that reporters could rely on. Leaks will be more common in the
future, but they'll still be rare. Expecting each agency to develop
expertise in this process is unrealistic.
If there were sufficient trust between the press and the government,
this could work. And everyone would benefit.
This essay previously appeared on CNN.com.http://edition.cnn.com/2013/11/04/opinion/schneier-leakers-government/index.html
Mark Klein story:http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/13/us/nationalspecial3/13nsa.html
The world of reduced secrecy:https://www.schneier.com/essay-449.html
Whistleblowing as civil disobedience:http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2013/07/19/edward-snowden-whistleblower.html
Software to facilitate massive document exfiltrations:https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2013/10/securedrop.html
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Jack Goldsmith argues that we need the NSA to surveil the Internet not
for terrorism reasons, but for cyberespionage and cybercrime reasons.http://www.newrepublic.com/node/115002/
Daniel Gallington argues -- the headline has nothing to do with the
content -- that the balance between surveillance and privacy is about
Good summary from the "London Review of Books" on what the NSA can and
"A Template for Reporting Government Surveillance News Stories." This
is from 2006, but it's even more true today.http://www.concurringopinions.com/archives/2006/06/template_for_ne.html
We've changed administrations -- we've changed political parties -- but
nothing has changed.
There's a story that Edward Snowden successfully socially engineered
other NSA employees into giving him their passwords.http://mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSBRE9A703020131108?irpc=932
This talk by Dan Geer explains the NSA mindset of "collect everything":https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2013/11/dan_geer_explai.html
The whole essay is well worth reading.http://geer.tinho.net/geer.uncc.9x13.txt
This "New York Times" story on the NSA is very good, and contains lots
of little tidbits of new information gleaned from the Snowden documents.
"The agency's Dishfire database -- nothing happens without a code word
at the N.S.A. -- stores years of text messages from around the world,
just in case. Its Tracfin collection accumulates gigabytes of credit
card purchases. The fellow pretending to send a text message at an
Internet cafe in Jordan may be using an N.S.A. technique code-named
Polarbreeze to tap into nearby computers. The Russian businessman who is
socially active on the web might just become food for Snacks, the
acronym-mad agency's Social Network Analysis Collaboration Knowledge
Services, which figures out the personnel hierarchies of organizations
This "Guardian" story is related. It looks like both the "New York
Times" and the "Guardian" wrote separate stories about the same source
"New York Times" reporter Scott Shane gave a 20-minute interview on
"Democracy Now" on the NSA and his reporting.http://www.democracynow.org/2013/11/4/inside_the_electronic_omnivore_new_leaks
"Der Spiegel" is reporting that the GCHQ used QUANTUMINSERT to direct
users to fake LinkedIn and Slashdot pages run by -- this code name is
not in the article -- FOXACID servers. There's not a lot technically
new in the article, but we do get some information about popularity and
Slashdot has reacted to the story.https://slashdot.org/topic/bi/gchq-responds-to-slashdot-linkedin-hack/
I wrote about QUANTUMINSERT, and the whole infection process, here.https://www.schneier.com/essay-455.html
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The Trajectories of Government and Corporate Surveillance
Historically, surveillance was difficult and expensive.
Over the decades, as technology advanced, surveillance became easier and
easier. Today, we find ourselves in a world of ubiquitous surveillance,
where everything is collected, saved, searched, correlated and analyzed.
But while technology allowed for an increase in both corporate and
government surveillance, the private and public sectors took very
different paths to get there. The former always collected information
about everyone, but over time, collected more and more of it, while the
latter always collected maximal information, but over time, collected it
on more and more people.
Corporate surveillance has been on a path from minimal to maximal
information. Corporations always collected information on everyone they
could, but in the past they didn't collect very much of it and only held
it as long as necessary. When surveillance information was expensive to
collect and store, companies made do with as little as possible.
Telephone companies collected long-distance calling information because
they needed it for billing purposes. Credit cards collected only the
information about their customers' transactions that they needed for
billing. Stores hardly ever collected information about their customers,
maybe some personal preferences, or name-and-address for advertising
purposes. Even Google, back in the beginning, collected far less
information about its users than it does today.
As technology improved, corporations were able to collect more. As the
cost of data storage became cheaper, they were able to save more data
and for a longer time. And as big data analysis tools became more
powerful, it became profitable to save more. Today, almost everything is
being saved by someone -- probably forever.
Examples are everywhere. Internet companies like Google, Facebook,
Amazon and Apple collect everything we do online at their sites.
Third-party cookies allow those companies, and others, to collect data
on us wherever we are on the Internet. Store affinity cards allow
merchants to track our purchases. CCTV and aerial surveillance combined
with automatic face recognition allow companies to track our movements;
so does your cell phone. The Internet will facilitate even more
surveillance, by more corporations for more purposes.
On the government side, surveillance has been on a path from
individually targeted to broadly collected. When surveillance was manual
and expensive, it could only be justified in extreme cases. The warrant
process limited police surveillance, and resource restraints and the
risk of discovery limited national intelligence surveillance. Specific
individuals were targeted for surveillance, and maximal information was
collected on them alone.
As technology improved, the government was able to implement
ever-broadening surveillance. The National Security Agency could surveil
groups -- the Soviet government, the Chinese diplomatic corps, etc. --
not just individuals. Eventually, they could spy on entire
Now, instead of watching one person, the NSA can monitor "three hops"
away from that person -- an ever widening network of people not directly
connected to the person under surveillance. Using sophisticated tools,
the NSA can surveil broad swaths of the Internet and phone network.
Governments have always used their authority to piggyback on corporate
surveillance. Why should they go through the trouble of developing their
own surveillance programs when they could just ask corporations for the
data? For example we just learned that the NSA collects e-mail, IM and
social networking contact lists for millions of Internet users worldwide.
But as corporations started collecting more information on populations,
governments started demanding that data. Through National Security
Letters, the FBI can surveil huge groups of people without obtaining a
warrant. Through secret agreements, the NSA can monitor the entire
Internet and telephone networks.
This is a huge part of the public-private surveillance partnership.
The result of all this is we're now living in a world where both
corporations and governments have us all under pretty much constant
Data is a byproduct of the information society. Every interaction we
have with a computer creates a transaction record, and we interact with
computers hundreds of times a day. Even if we don't use a computer --
buying something in person with cash, say -- the merchant uses a
computer, and the data flows into the same system. Everything we do
leaves a data shadow, and that shadow is constantly under surveillance.
Data is also a byproduct of information society socialization, whether
it be e-mail, instant messages or conversations on Facebook.
Conversations that used to be ephemeral are now recorded, and we are all
leaving digital footprints wherever we go.
Moore's law has made computing cheaper. All of us have made computing
ubiquitous. And because computing produces data, and that data equals
surveillance, we have created a world of ubiquitous surveillance.
Now we need to figure out what to do about it. This is more than reining
in the NSA or fining a corporation for the occasional data abuse. We
need to decide whether our data is a shared societal resource, a part of
us that is inherently ours by right, or a private good to be bought and
Writing in the "Guardian," Chris Huhn said that "information is power,
and the necessary corollary is that privacy is freedom." How this
interplay between power and freedom play out in the information age is
still to be determined.
This essay previously appeared on CNN.com.http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/16/opinion/schneier-surveillance-trajectories/index.html
Three hop analysis:http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2013/07/nsa-admits-it-analyzes-more-peoples-data-previously-revealed/67287
The public-private surveillance partnership:https://www.schneier.com/essay-436.html
Chris Huhn's comment:http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/06/prism-tempora-cabinet-surveillance-state
Richard Stallman's comments on the subject:http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/stallman20131020
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A Fraying of the Public/Private Surveillance Partnership
The public/private surveillance partnership between the NSA and
corporate data collectors is starting to fray. The reason is sunlight.
The publicity resulting from the Snowden documents has made companies
think twice before allowing the NSA access to their users' and
Pre-Snowden, there was no downside to cooperating with the NSA. If the
NSA asked you for copies of all your Internet traffic, or to put
backdoors into your security software, you could assume that your
cooperation would forever remain secret. To be fair, not every
corporation cooperated willingly. Some fought in court. But it seems
that a lot of them, telcos and backbone providers especially, were happy
to give the NSA unfettered access to everything. Post-Snowden, this is
changing. Now that many companies' cooperation has become public,
they're facing a PR backlash from customers and users who are upset that
their data is flowing to the NSA. And this is costing those companies
How much is unclear. In July, right after the PRISM revelations, the
Cloud Security Alliance reported that US cloud companies could lose $35
billion over the next three years, mostly due to losses of foreign
sales. Surely that number has increased as outrage over NSA spying
continues to build in Europe and elsewhere. There is no similar report
for software sales, although I have attended private meetings where
several large US software companies complained about the loss of foreign
sales. On the hardware side, IBM is losing business in China. The US
telecom companies are also suffering: AT&T is losing business worldwide.
This is the new reality. The rules of secrecy are different, and
companies have to assume that their responses to NSA data demands will
become public. This means there is now a significant cost to
cooperating, and a corresponding benefit to fighting.
Over the past few months, more companies have woken up to the fact that
the NSA is basically treating them as adversaries, and are responding as
such. In mid-October, it became public that the NSA was collecting
e-mail address books and buddy lists from Internet users logging into
different service providers. Yahoo, which didn't encrypt those user
connections by default, allowed the NSA to collect much more of its data
than Google, which did. That same day, Yahoo announced that it would
implement SSL encryption by default for all of its users. Two weeks
later, when it became public that the NSA was collecting data on Google
users by eavesdropping on the company's trunk connections between its
data centers, Google announced that it would encrypt those connections.
We recently learned that Yahoo fought a government order to turn over
data. Lavabit fought its order as well. Apple is now tweaking the
government. And we think better of those companies because of it.
Now Lavabit, which closed down its e-mail service rather than comply
with the NSA's request for the master keys that would compromise all of
its customers, has teamed with Silent Circle to develop a secure e-mail
standard that is resistant to these kinds of tactics.
The Snowden documents made it clear how much the NSA relies on
corporations to eavesdrop on the Internet. The NSA didn't build a
massive Internet eavesdropping system from scratch. It noticed that the
corporate world was already eavesdropping on every Internet user --
surveillance is the business model of the Internet, after all -- and
simply got copies for itself.
Now, that secret ecosystem is breaking down. Supreme Court Justice
Louis Brandeis wrote about transparency, saying "Sunlight is said to be
the best of disinfectants." In this case, it seems to be working.
These developments will only help security. Remember that while Edward
Snowden has given us a window into the NSA's activities, these sorts of
tactics are probably also used by other intelligence services around the
world. And today's secret NSA programs become tomorrow's PhD theses, and
the next day's criminal hacker tools. It's impossible to build an
Internet where the good guys can eavesdrop, and the bad guys cannot. We
have a choice between an Internet that is vulnerable to all attackers,
or an Internet that is safe from all attackers. And a safe and secure
Internet is in everyone's best interests, including the US's.
This essay previously appeared on TheAtlantic.com.http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/11/a-fraying-of-the-public-private-surveillance-partnership/281289/
The public/private surveillance partnership:https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2013/08/the_publicpriva_1.html
Increased outrage outside the US:http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/10/28/report-nsa-spain/3284609/
Losses due to NSA spying:http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2013/08/07/nsa-snooping-could-cost-u-s-tech-companies-35-billion-over-three-years/
New rules of secrecy:https://www.schneier.com/essay-449.html
The NSA and tech companies as adversaries:http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/01/google-yahoo-nsa-surveillance-reform
Yahoo announce3s SSL by default:http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2013/10/14/yahoo-to-make-ssl-encryption-the-default-for-webmail-users-finally/
Silent Circle's new e-mail system:http://www.computerworld.com.au/article/530582/silent_circle_lavabit_unite_dark_mail_encrypted_email_project/
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Book Review: "Cyber War Will Not Take Place"
Cyber war is possibly the most dangerous buzzword of the Internet era.
The fear-inducing rhetoric surrounding it is being used to justify major
changes in the way the Internet is organized, governed, and constructed.
And in "Cyber War Will Not Take Place," Thomas Rid convincingly argues
that cyber war is not a compelling threat. Rid is one of the leading
cyber war skeptics in Europe, and although he doesn't argue that war
won't extend into cyberspace, he says that cyberspace's role in war is
more limited than doomsayers want us to believe. His argument against
cyber war is lucid and methodical. He divides "offensive and violent
political acts" in cyberspace into: sabotage, espionage, and subversion.
These categories are larger than cyberspace, of course, but Rid spends
considerable time analyzing their strengths and limitations within
cyberspace. The details are complicated, but his end conclusion is that
many of these types of attacks cannot be defined as acts of war, and any
future war won't involve many of these types of attacks.
None of this is meant to imply that cyberspace is safe. Threats of all
sorts fill cyberspace, but not threats of war. As such, the policies to
defend against them are different. While hackers and criminal threats
get all the headlines, more worrisome are the threats from governments
seeking to consolidate their power. I have long argued that controlling
the Internet has become critical for totalitarian states, and their four
broad tools of surveillance, censorship, propaganda and use control have
legitimate commercial applications, and are also employed by democracies.
A lot of the problem here is of definition. There isn't broad agreement
as to what constitutes cyber war, and this confusion plays into the
hands of those hyping its threat. If everything from Chinese espionage
to Russian criminal extortion to activist disruption falls under the
cyber war umbrella, then it only makes sense to put more of the Internet
under government -- and thus military -- control. Rid's book is a
compelling counter-argument to this approach.
Rid's final chapter is an essay unto itself, and lays out his vision as
to how we should deal with threats in cyberspace. For policymakers who
won't sit through an entire book, this is the chapter I would urge them
to read. Arms races are dangerous and destabilizing, and we're in the
early years of a cyberwar arms race that's being fueled by fear and
ignorance. This book is a cogent counterpoint to the doomsayers and the
profiteers, and should be required reading for anyone concerned about
security in cyberspace.
This book review previously appeared in Europe's World.http://europesworld.org/2013/10/01/cyber-war-will-not-take-place/
Thomas Rid, "Cyber War Will Not Take Place," Oxford University Press, 2013.
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Understanding the Threats in Cyberspace
The primary difficulty of cyber security isn't technology -- it's
policy. The Internet mirrors real-world society, which makes security
policy online as complicated as it is in the real world. Protecting
critical infrastructure against cyber-attack is just one of cyberspace's
many security challenges, so it's important to understand them all
before any one of them can be solved.
The list of bad actors in cyberspace is long, and spans a wide range of
motives and capabilities. At the extreme end there's cyberwar:
destructive actions by governments during a war. When government
policymakers like David Omand think of cyber-attacks, that's what comes
to mind. Cyberwar is conducted by capable and well-funded groups and
involves military operations against both military and civilian targets.
Along much the same lines are non-nation state actors who conduct
terrorist operations. Although less capable and well-funded, they are
often talked about in the same breath as true cyberwar.
Much more common are the domestic and international criminals who run
the gamut from lone individuals to organized crime. They can be very
capable and well-funded and will continue to inflict significant
Threats from peacetime governments have been seen increasingly in the
news. The US worries about Chinese espionage against Western targets,
and we're also seeing US surveillance of pretty much everyone in the
world, including Americans inside the US. The National Security Agency
(NSA) is probably the most capable and well-funded espionage
organization in the world, and we're still learning about the full
extent of its sometimes illegal operations.
Hacktivists are a different threat. Their actions range from
Internet-age acts of civil disobedience to the inflicting of actual
damage. This is hard to generalize about because the individuals and
groups in this category vary so much in skill, funding and motivation.
Hackers falling under the "anonymous" aegis -- it really isn't correct
to call them a group -- come under this category, as does WikiLeaks.
Most of these attackers are outside the organization, although
whistleblowing -- the civil disobedience of the information age --
generally involves insiders like Edward Snowden.
This list of potential network attackers isn't exhaustive. Depending on
who you are and what your organization does, you might be also concerned
with espionage cyber-attacks by the media, rival corporations or even
the corporations we entrust with our data.
The issue here, and why it affects policy, is that protecting against
these various threats can lead to contradictory requirements. In the US,
the NSA's post-9/11 mission to protect the country from terrorists has
transformed it into a domestic surveillance organization. The NSA's need
to protect its own information systems from outside attack opened it up
to attacks from within. Do the corporate security products we buy to
protect ourselves against cybercrime contain backdoors that allow for
government spying? European countries may condemn the US for spying on
its own citizens, but do they do the same thing?
All these questions are especially difficult because military and
security organizations along with corporations tend to hype particular
threats. For example, cyberwar and cyberterrorism are greatly overblown
as threats -- because they result in massive government programs with
huge budgets and power -- while cybercrime is largely downplayed.
We need greater transparency, oversight and accountability on both the
government and corporate sides before we can move forward. With the
secrecy that surrounds cyber-attack and cyberdefense it's hard to be
This essay previously appeared in "Europe's World."http://europesworld.org/commentaries/understanding-the-threats-in-cyberspace/
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Ed Felten makes a strong argument that a court order is exactly the
same thing as an insider attack:https://freedom-to-tinker.com/blog/felten/a-court-order-is-an-insider-attack/
This is why designing Lavabit to be resistant to court order would have
been the right thing to do, and why we should all demand systems that
are designed in this way.http://boingboing.net/2013/10/15/why-email-services-should-be-c.html
There seems to be a bunch of research into uniquely identifying cell
phones through unique analog characteristics of the various embedded
sensors. These sorts of things could replace cookies as surveillance tools.http://www.hotmobile.org/2014/papers/posters/Hotmobile_poster_Dey.pdf
Several versions of D-Link router firmware contain a backdoor. Just set
the browser's user agent string to "xmlset_roodkcableoj28840ybtide," and
you're in. (Hint, remove the number and read it backwards.) It was
probably put there for debugging purposes, but has all sorts of
applications for surveillance.http://www.devttys0.com/2013/10/reverse-engineering-a-d-link-backdoor/
There are open-source programs available to replace the firmware:http://www.infoworld.com/d/networking/review-6-slick-open-source-routers-206810
The new iPhone has a motion sensor chip, and that opens up new
opportunities for surveillance.http://www.wired.com/opinion/2013/10/the-trojan-horse-of-the-latest-iphone-with-the-m7-coprocessor-we-all-become-qs-activity-trackers/
Slashdot asks whether I can be trusted:http://ask.slashdot.org/story/13/10/22/1416201/ask-slashdot-can-bruce-schneier-be-trusted
DARPA is looking for a fully automated network defense system, and has a
Cognitive biases about violence as a negotiating tactic: interesting paper.http://www.academia.edu/4770419/The_Credibility_Paradox_Violence_as_a_Double-Edged_Sword_in_International_Politics_International_Studies_Quarterly_December_2013_
This article talks about applications of close-in surveillance using
your phone's Wi-Fi in retail, but the possibilities are endless.http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2013/10/19/how-stores-use-your-phones-wifi-to-track-your-shopping-habits/
Basically, the system is using the MAC address to identify individual
devices. Another article on the system is here.http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/15/business/attention-shopper-stores-are-tracking-your-cell.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&
Good story of badBIOS, a really nasty piece of malware. The weirdest
part is how it uses ultrasonic sound to jump air gaps.http://arstechnica.com/security/2013/10/meet-badbios-the-mysterious-mac-and-pc-malware-that-jumps-airgaps/
I'm not sure what to make of this. When I first read it, I thought it
was a hoax. But enough others are taking it seriously that I think it's
a real story. I don't know whether the facts are real, and I haven't
seen anything about what this malware actually does.http://boingboing.net/2013/10/31/badbios-airgap-jumping-malwar.htmlhttp://www.reddit.com/r/netsec/comments/1pm66y/meet_badbios_the_mysterious_mac_and_pc_malware/
This story of the bomb squad at the Boston marathon interesting reading,
but I'm left wanting more. What are the lessons here? How can we do
this better next time? Clearly we won't be able to anticipate bombings;
even Israel can't do that. We have to get better at responding.http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/10/boston-police-bomb-squad/all/
Here's a demonstration of the US government's capabilities to monitor
the public Internet. Former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden was on
the Acela train between New York and Washington DC, taking press
interviews on the phone. Someone nearby overheard the conversation, and
started tweeting about it. Within 15 or so minutes, someone somewhere
noticed the tweets, and informed someone who knew Hayden. That person
called Hayden on his cell phone and, presumably, told him to shut up.
Nothing covert here; the tweets were public.http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/24/former-spy-chief-overheard-acela-twitter
I don't think this was a result of the NSA monitoring the Internet. I
think this was some public relations office -- probably the one that is
helping General Alexander respond to all the Snowden stories -- who is
searching the public Twitter feed for, among other things, Hayden's
name. Even so: wow.
This elliptic-curve crypto primer is well-written and very good.http://arstechnica.com/security/2013/10/a-relatively-easy-to-understand-primer-on-elliptic-curve-cryptography/
The wings of the *Goniurellia tridens* fruit fly have images of an ant
on them, to deceive predators: "When threatened, the fly flashes its
wings to give the appearance of ants walking back and forth. The
predator gets confused and the fly zips off."http://www.thenational.ae/news/uae-news/science/fruit-fly-with-the-wings-of-beauty
Interesting article on risk-based authentication. I like the idea of
giving each individual login attempt a risk score, based on the
characteristics of the attempt.http://deloitte.wsj.com/cio/2013/10/30/risk-based-authentication-a-primer/
This bizarre essay argues that online gambling is a strategic national
threat because terrorists could use it to launder money.http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/columns/column-online-gambling-is-a-strategic-national-threat/2151317
I'm impressed with the massive fear resonating.
Adobe lost 150 million customer passwords. Even worse, it had a pretty
dumb cryptographic hash system protecting those passwords.http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/nov/07/adobe-password-leak-can-check
Microsoft has announced plans to retire SHA-1 by 2016. I think this is a
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SecureDrop is an open-source whistleblower support system, originally
written by Aaron Swartz and now run by the Freedom of the Press
Foundation. The first instance of this system was named StrongBox and
is being run by "The New Yorker." To further add to the naming
confusion, Aaron Swartz called the system DeadDrop when he wrote the code.
I participated in a detailed security audit of the StrongBox
implementation, along with some great researchers from the University of
Washington and Jake Applebaum. The problems we found were largely
procedural, and things that the Freedom of the Press Foundation are
working to fix.
Freedom of the Press Foundation is not running any instances of
SecureDrop. It has about a half dozen major news organization lined up,
and will be helping them install their own starting the first week of
November. So hopefully any would-be whistleblowers will soon have their
choice of news organizations to securely communicate with.
Strong technical whistleblower protection is essential, especially given
President Obama's war on whistleblowers. I hope this system is broadly
implemented and extensively used.
Our security audit:http://homes.cs.washington.edu/~aczeskis/research/pubs/UW-CSE-13-08-02.PDF
Obama's war on whistleblowers:http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/06/obamas-whistleblowers-stuxnet-leaks-drones
The US government sets up secure indoor tents for the president and
other officials to deal with classified material while traveling abroad.http://www.theage.com.au/world/barack-obamas-portable-secrecy-tent-some-assembly-required-20131111-2xb0l.html
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Dry Ice Bombs at LAX
The news story about the guy who left dry ice bombs in restricted areas
of LAX is really weird.
I can't get worked up over it, though. Dry ice bombs are a harmless
prank. I set off a bunch of them when I was in college, although I used
liquid nitrogen, because I was impatient -- and they're harmless. I
know of someone who set a few off over the summer, just for fun. They
do make a very satisfying boom.
Having them set off in a secure airport area doesn't illustrate any new
vulnerabilities. We already know that trusted people can subvert
security systems. So what?
I've done a bunch of press interviews on this. One radio announcer
really didn't like my nonchalance. He really wanted me to complain
about the lack of cameras at LAX, and was unhappy when I pointed out
that we didn't need cameras to catch this guy.
I like my kicker quote in this article:
Various people, including former Los Angeles Police Chief
William Bratton, have called LAX the No. 1 terrorist target on
the West Coast. But while an Algerian man discovered with a
bomb at the Canadian border in 1999 was sentenced to 37 years
in prison in connection with a plot to cause damage at LAX,
Schneier said that assessment by Bratton is probably not true.
"Where can you possibly get that data?" he said. "I don't think
terrorists respond to opinion polls about how juicy targets
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In Spring semester, I'm running a reading group -- which seems to be a
formal variant of a study group -- at Harvard Law School on "Security,
Power, and the Internet. I would like a good mix of people, so non law
students and non Harvard students are both welcome to sign up.http://www.law.harvard.edu/academics/curriculum/catalog/index.html?o=66620
Various security articles about me (or with good quotes by me):http://fedscoop.com/nsa-murky-relationship-contractors-government-secrets-journalism/
My talk at the IETF Vancouver meeting on NSA and surveillance:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oV71hhEpQ20
Press articles about me and the IEFT meeting:http://www.darkreading.com/vulnerability/schneier-make-wide-scale-surveillance-to/240163668
Other video interviews:http://cis-india.org/internet-governance/blog/interview-with-bruce-schneier
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The Battle for Power on the Internet
We're in the middle of an epic battle for power in cyberspace. On one
side are the traditional, organized, institutional powers such as
governments and large multinational corporations. On the other are the
distributed and nimble: grassroots movements, dissident groups, hackers,
and criminals. Initially, the Internet empowered the second side. It
gave them a place to coordinate and communicate efficiently, and made
them seem unbeatable. But now, the more traditional institutional powers
are winning, and winning big. How these two sides fare in the long term,
and the fate of the rest of us who don't fall into either group, is an
open question -- and one vitally important to the future of the Internet.
In the Internet's early days, there was a lot of talk about its "natural
laws" -- how it would upend traditional power blocks, empower the
masses, and spread freedom throughout the world. The international
nature of the Internet circumvented national laws. Anonymity was easy.
Censorship was impossible. Police were clueless about cybercrime. And
bigger changes seemed inevitable. Digital cash would undermine national
sovereignty. Citizen journalism would topple traditional media,
corporate PR, and political parties. Easy digital copying would destroy
the traditional movie and music industries. Web marketing would allow
even the smallest companies to compete against corporate giants. It
really would be a new world order.
This was a utopian vision, but some of it did come to pass. Internet
marketing has transformed commerce. The entertainment industries have
been transformed by things like MySpace and YouTube, and are now more
open to outsiders. Mass media has changed dramatically, and some of the
most influential people in the media have come from the blogging world.
There are new ways to organize politically and run elections.
Crowdfunding has made tens of thousands of projects possible to finance,
and crowdsourcing made more types of projects possible. Facebook and
Twitter really did help topple governments.
But that is just one side of the Internet's disruptive character. The
Internet has emboldened traditional power as well.
On the corporate side, power is consolidating, a result of two current
trends in computing. First, the rise of cloud computing means that we no
longer have control of our data. Our e-mail, photos, calendars, address
books, messages, and documents are on servers belonging to Google,
Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and so on. And second, we are increasingly
accessing our data using devices that we have much less control over:
iPhones, iPads, Android phones, Kindles, ChromeBooks, and so on. Unlike
traditional operating systems, those devices are controlled much more
tightly by the vendors, who limit what software can run, what they can
do, how they're updated, and so on. Even Windows 8 and Apple's Mountain
Lion operating system are heading in the direction of more vendor control.
I have previously characterized this model of computing as "feudal."
Users pledge their allegiance to more powerful companies who, in turn,
promise to protect them from both sysadmin duties and security threats.
It's a metaphor that's rich in history and in fiction, and a model
that's increasingly permeating computing today.
Medieval feudalism was a hierarchical political system, with obligations
in both directions. Lords offered protection, and vassals offered
service. The lord-peasant relationship was similar, with a much greater
power differential. It was a response to a dangerous world.
Feudal security consolidates power in the hands of the few. Internet
companies, like lords before them, act in their own self-interest. They
use their relationship with us to increase their profits, sometimes at
our expense. They act arbitrarily. They make mistakes. They're
deliberately -- and incidentally -- changing social norms. Medieval
feudalism gave the lords vast powers over the landless peasants; we're
seeing the same thing on the Internet.
It's not all bad, of course. We, especially those of us who are not
technical, like the convenience, redundancy, portability, automation,
and shareability of vendor-managed devices. We like cloud backup. We
like automatic updates. We like not having to deal with security
ourselves. We like that Facebook just works -- from any device, anywhere.
Government power is also increasing on the Internet. There is more
government surveillance than ever before. There is more government
censorship than ever before. There is more government propaganda, and an
increasing number of governments are controlling what their users can
and cannot do on the Internet. Totalitarian governments are embracing a
growing "cyber sovereignty" movement to further consolidate their power.
And the cyberwar arms race is on, pumping an enormous amount of money
into cyber-weapons and consolidated cyber-defenses, further increasing
In many cases, the interests of corporate and government powers are
aligning. Both corporations and governments benefit from ubiquitous
surveillance, and the NSA is using Google, Facebook, Verizon, and others
to get access to data it couldn't otherwise. The entertainment industry
is looking to governments to enforce its antiquated business models.
Commercial security equipment from companies like BlueCoat and Sophos is
being used by oppressive governments to surveil and censor their
citizens. The same facial recognition technology that Disney uses in its
theme parks can also identify protesters in China and Occupy Wall Street
activists in New York. Think of it as a public/private surveillance
What happened? How, in those early Internet years, did we get the future
The truth is that technology magnifies power in general, but rates of
adoption are different. The unorganized, the distributed, the marginal,
the dissidents, the powerless, the criminal: they can make use of new
technologies very quickly. And when those groups discovered the
Internet, suddenly they had power. But later, when the already-powerful
big institutions finally figured out how to harness the Internet, they
had more power to magnify. That's the difference: the distributed were
more nimble and were faster to make use of their new power, while the
institutional were slower but were able to use their power more effectively.
So while the Syrian dissidents used Facebook to organize, the Syrian
government used Facebook to identify dissidents to arrest.
All isn't lost for distributed power, though. For institutional power,
the Internet is a change in degree, but for distributed power, it's a
qualitative one. The Internet gives decentralized groups -- for the
first time -- the ability to coordinate. This can have incredible
ramifications, as we saw in the SOPA/PIPA debate, Gezi, Brazil, and the
rising use of crowdfunding. It can invert power dynamics, even in the
presence of surveillance, censorship, and use control. But aside from
political coordination, the Internet allows for social coordination as
well -- to unite, for example, ethnic diasporas, gender minorities,
sufferers of rare diseases, and people with obscure interests.
This isn't static: Technological advances continue to provide advantage
to the nimble. I discussed this trend in my book "Liars and Outliers."
If you think of security as an arms race between attackers and
defenders, any technological advance gives one side or the other a
temporary advantage. But most of the time, a new technology benefits the
nimble first. They are not hindered by bureaucracy -- and sometimes not
by laws or ethics, either. They can evolve faster.
We saw it with the Internet. As soon as the Internet started being used
for commerce, a new breed of cybercriminal emerged, immediately able to
take advantage of the new technology. It took police a decade to catch
up. And we saw it on social media, as political dissidents made use of
its organizational powers before totalitarian regimes did.
This delay is what I call a "security gap." It's greater when there's
more technology, and in times of rapid technological change. Basically,
if there are more innovations to exploit, there will be more damage
resulting from society's inability to keep up with exploiters of all of
them. And since our world is one in which there's more technology than
ever before, and a faster rate of technological change than ever before,
we should expect to see a greater security gap than ever before. In
other words, there will be an increasing time period during which nimble
distributed powers can make use of new technologies before slow
institutional powers can make better use of those technologies.
This is the battle: quick vs. strong. To return to medieval metaphors,
you can think of a nimble distributed power -- whether marginal,
dissident, or criminal -- as Robin Hood; and ponderous institutional
powers -- both government and corporate -- as the feudal lords.
So who wins? Which type of power dominates in the coming decades?
Right now, it looks like traditional power. Ubiquitous surveillance
means that it's easier for the government to identify dissidents than it
is for the dissidents to remain anonymous. Data monitoring means easier
for the Great Firewall of China to block data than it is for people to
circumvent it. The way we all use the Internet makes it much easier for
the NSA to spy on everyone than it is for anyone to maintain privacy.
And even though it is easy to circumvent digital copy protection, most
users still can't do it.
The problem is that leveraging Internet power requires technical
expertise. Those with sufficient ability will be able to stay ahead of
institutional powers. Whether it's setting up your own e-mail server,
effectively using encryption and anonymity tools, or breaking copy
protection, there will always be technologies that can evade
institutional powers. This is why cybercrime is still pervasive, even as
police savvy increases; why technically capable whistleblowers can do so
much damage; and why organizations like Anonymous are still a viable
social and political force. Assuming technology continues to advance --
and there's no reason to believe it won't -- there will always be a
security gap in which technically advanced Robin Hoods can operate.
Most people, though, are stuck in the middle. These are people who don't
have the technical ability to evade large governments and corporations,
avoid the criminal and hacker groups who prey on us, or join any
resistance or dissident movements. These are the people who accept
default configuration options, arbitrary terms of service, NSA-installed
backdoors, and the occasional complete loss of their data. These are the
people who get increasingly isolated as government and corporate power
align. In the feudal world, these are the hapless peasants. And it's
even worse when the feudal lords -- or any powers -- fight each other.
As anyone watching "Game of Thrones" knows, peasants get trampled when
powers fight: when Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amazon fight it out in
the market; when the US, EU, China, and Russia fight it out in
geopolitics; or when it's the US vs. "the terrorists" or China vs. its
The abuse will only get worse as technology continues to advance. In the
battle between institutional power and distributed power, more
technology means more damage. We've already seen this: Cybercriminals
can rob more people more quickly than criminals who have to physically
visit everyone they rob. Digital pirates can make more copies of more
things much more quickly than their analog forebears. And we'll see it
in the future: 3D printers mean that the computer restriction debate
will soon involves guns, not movies. Big data will mean that more
companies will be able to identify and track you more easily. It's the
same problem as the "weapons of mass destruction" fear: terroris
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Code Names for NSA Exploit Tools
on: November 17, 2013, 12:55:34 AM
Code Names for NSA Exploit Tools
This is from a Snowden document released by "Le Monde":
General Term Descriptions:
HIGHLANDS: Collection from Implants
VAGRANT: Collection of Computer Screens
MAGNETIC: Sensor Collection of Magnetic Emanations
MINERALIZE: Collection from LAN Implant
OCEAN: Optical Collection System for Raster-Based Computer
LIFESAFER: Imaging of the Hard Drive
GENIE: Multi-stage operation: jumping the airgap etc.
BLACKHEART: Collection from an FBI Implant
DROPMIRE: Passive collection of emanations using antenna
CUSTOMS: Customs opportunities (not LIFESAVER)
DROPMIRE: Laser printer collection, purely proximal access
DEWSWEEPER: USB (Universal Serial Bus) hardware host tap that
provides COVERT link over US link into a target network.
Operates w/RF relay subsystem to provide wireless Bridge into
RADON: Bi-directional host tap that can inject Ethernet packets
onto the same targets. Allows bi-directional exploitation of
denied networks using standard on-net tools.
There's a lot to think about in this list. RADON and DEWSWEEPER seem
** *** ***** ******* *********** *************
Defending Against Crypto Backdoors
We already know the NSA wants to eavesdrop on the Internet. It has
secret agreements with telcos to get direct access to bulk Internet
traffic. It has massive systems like TUMULT, TURMOIL, and TURBULENCE to
sift through it all. And it can identify ciphertext -- encrypted
information -- and figure out which programs could have created it.
But what the NSA wants is to be able to read that encrypted information
in as close to real-time as possible. It wants backdoors, just like the
cybercriminals and less benevolent governments do.
And we have to figure out how to make it harder for them, or anyone
else, to insert those backdoors.
How the NSA Gets Its Backdoors
The FBI tried to get backdoor access embedded in an AT&T secure
telephone system in the mid-1990s. The Clipper Chip included something
called a LEAF: a Law Enforcement Access Field. It was the key used to
encrypt the phone conversation, itself encrypted in a special key known
to the FBI, and it was transmitted along with the phone conversation. An
FBI eavesdropper could intercept the LEAF and decrypt it, then use the
data to eavesdrop on the phone call.
But the Clipper Chip faced severe backlash, and became defunct a few
years after being announced.
Having lost that public battle, the NSA decided to get its backdoors
through subterfuge: by asking nicely, pressuring, threatening, bribing,
or mandating through secret order. The general name for this program is
Defending against these attacks is difficult. We know from subliminal
channel and kleptography research that it's pretty much impossible to
guarantee that a complex piece of software isn't leaking secret
information. We know from Ken Thompson's famous talk on "trusting trust"
(first delivered in the ACM Turing Award Lectures) that you can never be
totally sure if there's a security flaw in your software.
Since BULLRUN became public last month, the security community has been
examining security flaws discovered over the past several years, looking
for signs of deliberate tampering. The Debian random number flaw was
probably not deliberate, but the 2003 Linux security vulnerability
probably was. The DUAL_EC_DRBG random number generator may or may not
have been a backdoor. The SSL 2.0 flaw was probably an honest mistake.
The GSM A5/1 encryption algorithm was almost certainly deliberately
weakened. All the common RSA moduli out there in the wild: we don't
know. Microsoft's _NSAKEY looks like a smoking gun, but honestly, we
How the NSA Designs Backdoors
While a separate program that sends our data to some IP address
somewhere is certainly how any hacker -- from the lowliest script kiddie
up to the NSA -- spies on our computers, it's too labor-intensive to
work in the general case.
For government eavesdroppers like the NSA, subtlety is critical. In
particular, three characteristics are important:
* Low discoverability. The less the backdoor affects the normal
operations of the program, the better. Ideally, it shouldn't affect
functionality at all. The smaller the backdoor is, the better. Ideally,
it should just look like normal functional code. As a blatant example,
an email encryption backdoor that appends a plaintext copy to the
encrypted copy is much less desirable than a backdoor that reuses most
of the key bits in a public IV (initialization vector).
* High deniability. If discovered, the backdoor should look like a
mistake. It could be a single opcode change. Or maybe a "mistyped"
constant. Or "accidentally" reusing a single-use key multiple times.
This is the main reason I am skeptical about _NSAKEY as a deliberate
backdoor, and why so many people don't believe the DUAL_EC_DRBG backdoor
is real: they're both too obvious.
* Minimal conspiracy. The more people who know about the backdoor, the
more likely the secret is to get out. So any good backdoor should be
known to very few people. That's why the recently described potential
vulnerability in Intel's random number generator worries me so much; one
person could make this change during mask generation, and no one else
These characteristics imply several things:
* A closed-source system is safer to subvert, because an open-source
system comes with a greater risk of that subversion being discovered. On
the other hand, a big open-source system with a lot of developers and
sloppy version control is easier to subvert.
* If a software system only has to interoperate with itself, then it is
easier to subvert. For example, a closed VPN encryption system only has
to interoperate with other instances of that same proprietary system.
This is easier to subvert than an industry-wide VPN standard that has to
interoperate with equipment from other vendors.
* A commercial software system is easier to subvert, because the profit
motive provides a strong incentive for the company to go along with the
* Protocols developed by large open standards bodies are harder to
influence, because a lot of eyes are paying attention. Systems designed
by closed standards bodies are easier to influence, especially if the
people involved in the standards don't really understand security.
* Systems that send seemingly random information in the clear are easier
to subvert. One of the most effective ways of subverting a system is by
leaking key information -- recall the LEAF -- and modifying random
nonces or header information is the easiest way to do that.
Design Strategies for Defending against Backdoors
With these principles in mind, we can list design strategies. None of
them is foolproof, but they are all useful. I'm sure there's more; this
list isn't meant to be exhaustive, nor the final word on the topic. It's
simply a starting place for discussion. But it won't work unless
customers start demanding software with this sort of transparency.
* Vendors should make their encryption code public, including the
protocol specifications. This will allow others to examine the code for
vulnerabilities. It's true we won't know for sure if the code we're
seeing is the code that's actually used in the application, but
surreptitious substitution is hard to do, forces the company to outright
lie, and increases the number of people required for the conspiracy to work.
* The community should create independent compatible versions of
encryption systems, to verify they are operating properly. I envision
companies paying for these independent versions, and universities
accepting this sort of work as good practice for their students. And
yes, I know this can be very hard in practice.
* There should be no master secrets. These are just too vulnerable.
* All random number generators should conform to published and accepted
standards. Breaking the random number generator is the easiest
difficult-to-detect method of subverting an encryption system. A
corollary: we need better published and accepted RNG standards.
* Encryption protocols should be designed so as not to leak any random
information. Nonces should be considered part of the key or public
predictable counters if possible. Again, the goal is to make it harder
to subtly leak key bits in this information.
This is a hard problem. We don't have any technical controls that
protect users from the authors of their software.
And the current state of software makes the problem even harder: Modern
apps chatter endlessly on the Internet, providing noise and cover for
covert communications. Feature bloat provides a greater "attack surface"
for anyone wanting to install a backdoor.
In general, what we need is assurance: methodologies for ensuring that a
piece of software does what it's supposed to do and nothing more.
Unfortunately, we're terrible at this. Even worse, there's not a lot of
practical research in this area -- and it's hurting us badly right now.
Yes, we need legal prohibitions against the NSA trying to subvert
authors and deliberately weaken cryptography. But this isn't just about
the NSA, and legal controls won't protect against those who don't follow
the law and ignore international agreements. We need to make their job
harder by increasing their risk of discovery. Against a risk-averse
adversary, it might be good enough.
This essay previously appeared on Wired.com.http://www.wired.com/opinion/2013/10/how-to-design-and-defend-against-the-perfect-backdoor/
The NSA's secret agreements:https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2013/09/senator_feinste.html
How the NSA get around encryption:http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/06/us/nsa-foils-much-internet-encryption.html
SSL 2.0 flaw:http://www.cs.berkeley.edu/~daw/papers/ddj-netscape.html
GSM A5/1 flaw:http://www.cs.technion.ac.il/users/wwwb/cgi-bin/tr-get.cgi/2006/CS/CS-2006-07.pdf
Common RSA moduli:http://eprint.iacr.org/2012/064.pdf
NSA attacks Tor:http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/04/tor-attacks-nsa-users-online-anonymity
Possible Intel RNG backdoor:https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2013/09/surreptitiously.html
I am looking for other examples of known or plausible instances of
intentional vulnerabilities for a paper I am writing on this topic. If
you can think of an example, please post a description and reference in
the comments below. Please explain why you think the vulnerability
could be intentional. Thank you.